Lockdown III Week 7, February 15th to 21st 2021 inclusive

Monday, February 15th

Hooray, Rafa beat Fabio, and in straight sets 🙂 .  A very tough looking QF against Stef Tsitsipas now awaits.

Depending on what you read, eating places will be reopening in March/May/not until August, hotels will be reopening in time for Easter weekend/in time for Whit Bank Holiday weekend/not until August, and all schoolkids/some schoolkids will be going back to school on March 8th.  Very little is being said about these bloody travel restrictions.

The quarantine hotel system began today.  People using it have to fly into either London Heathrow, London Gatwick, London City, Farnborough or Birmingham.  Yes, you did see “London” three times in the list of five.  No, you did not see any mention of Manchester, the biggest international travel hub in the country after Heathrow, nor, indeed, of anywhere else in the entire North of England.  And how many international flights go into Farnborough?!   FFS.

The issue of people from certain ethnic minorities not taking up the offer of the vaccine is getting really problematic.  Leicester Hospital Trust’s said that only 36.9% of black staff members, and only 43.2% of staff members with Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage, have taken up the offer of the vaccine.  The numbers of white staff members and staff members with Indian heritage who’ve been vaccinated are way, way higher.  And this is amongst healthcare workers, who are presumably very well educated about the virus and the vaccine.  I don’t think anyone foresaw this problem, but it could throw quite a spanner in the works.  Big efforts are being made to convince people from ethnic minority groups to be vaccinated, but they don’t seem to be working.

And the weather has perked up.  And this is the first week in months that it’ll be light enough for me to sit in the flower park with my weekly frozen yoghurt.  I normally go on Tuesdays, but tomorrow’s Pancake Day and I’m fat enough without having frozen yoghurt (even if it is fat free) and pancakes on the same day.

 

Tuesday, February 16th

My sister had her first jab today, which is good news! She’s only 43, but classes as clinically vulnerable because she’s borderline diabetic.  Goodness only knows when I’ll get done.  Obviously I don’t expect to be given priority over clinically vulnerable people or frontline workers, but the waiting’s very frustrating.

The latest polls show that 89% of people intend to be vaccinated, but there is this concern over the low take-up amongst some ethnic minority groups.  It’s been announced that a character in Emmerdale is going to be vaccinated, and I would assume other soap operas will do the same: it’s only a soap storyline, but a cast member who is from an ethnic minority group’s criticised the scriptwriters for “pushing” the vaccine and said that no-one should be forced to have something that’s “experimental”.  I don’t think anyone foresaw this issue arising, and it’s worrying.

Also, there’s another mutant version of the virus on the loose.  And the mutant of the Kent mutant has now appeared in Moston and Harpurhey, which is very close to home.

The Pancake Day football match in Atherstone, Warwickshire, which dates back 821 years, 15 years before the signing of the Magna Carta, has had to be cancelled, for the first time ever.  It carried on through plague, failed harvests, the Civil War, Cromwell’s repression and both World Wars, but was cancelled by bloody Covid-19.  That really upset me, for some reason.

However, it’s been a lovely, sunny, springlike day, and there was quite a holiday atmosphere in the park, with kids off school for half term.  The youngest age groups in Scotland are to go back to school next week.

Awful day at the tennis, though!  Sascha had so many chances … he should have won every set, but Nole won 3 of 4 … and now plays Karatsev, who beat Grisha, who was injured.  I’d love to think that Karatsev could beat Nole, but it so isn’t happening.   Meanwhile, Rafa’s got to play Stef, and, if he beats him, probably Medvedev.

Finally, another 1.7 million people are to be told to shield.  I quite appreciate that, when the pandemic started, no-one knew that certain conditions/factors made people more vulnerable, but it seems a bit late now.  Anyone in this group will be prioritised for vaccination … although a lot of them are in the groups vaccinated already, so they’re going from the hope of getting their lives back to some sort of normal to being told not to go out.

I have these moments of joy, because spring’s coming, and it’s so precious … my favourite season, daffodils and lambs and trips to the Lakes, to Chirk, to Bolton Abbey, to Biddulph Grange, etc.  Then it hits me, all over again, that, because of the bloody travel restrictions, it won’t be happening.  For a second year in a row.

 

Wednesday, February 17th

Why does the Australian Open always break my heart?  Well, practically always.  I wasn’t expecting miracles, after Rafa had so little match practice beforehand, but he was 2 sets to love up on Stef, came so close to winning it in 3 … and lost it in 5.  I am very sad 😦 .

Nice weather again.  The park’s been very busy all week, because of school half term.  This is the problem – in densely-populated urban areas, there are very few places to go during lockdown, so everyone ends up in the same place.  Some crocuses are coming through, but no daffodils yet.

There are all sorts of rumours about which restrictions will and won’t be lifted when.  I’m trying to ignore them.  We just don’t know, and getting upset over speculation doesn’t help.

On and on and on … when will this nightmare ever end?

 

Thursday, February 18th

United won 4-0 away to Real Sociedad … in Turin. 4-0!   Good start to the Europa League 🙂 .

The National League North and South seasons’ve been declared null and void 😦 .

Serena just can’t get this 24th Grand Slam title … she lost to Naomi, who now plays Jennifer Brady in the final.  Karatsev put up a decent fight, but was never going to beat Nole.  Fans back in today.

Northern Ireland’s lockdown’s been extended until April 1st.  But schools are to reopen for some academic years on March 8th.  There hasn’t even been an announcement about schools reopening in England yet, but whingeing teaching unions are already objecting to everything.  All this talk about reopening, but when will these evil travel restrictions be lifted?  People in Northern Ireland are to be allowed to meet up outdoors in groups of 10 from March 8th, but that’s not a lot of use unless all your relatives and friends live nearby.    There are now clear signs of infections falling in the older age groups, and over 30% of the population’s now had their first jab, so progress is being made, but we cannot carry on with these restrictions indefinitely.

 

Friday, February 19th

Bleurgh, I am totally fed up.  WHY are infection rates not dropping here as quickly as they are everywhere else?  After the Kent variant took off, we had rates well below average, but now they’re dropping rapidly in most places, especially the south, but not here.  WHY?  We have been under extra restrictions since bloody July.  There are various theories:

  1. Population density.  This makes some sense.  Obviously it should apply to London too, but it seems likely that a lot of people in London contracted the virus in early 2020, before either lockdown or mass testing, and therefore had antibodies, and also that London was further along on the “curve” when things reopened in July.
  2. More people at work … not necessarily essential workers, but people who can’t work from home.  There are a lot more blue collar workers in the North and Midlands than in the South.  Also, a lot of offices are open when they shouldn’t be.
  3.  Multi-generational housing/overcrowding … this may well be an issue, but the areas currently worst affected aren’t those where the occurrence of this is highest.  Having said which, it’s noticeable that the area least affected is Trafford, which includes the wealthiest parts of the conurbation.
  4.  Linked to point 1 ), a “reservoir of infection” … sounds vague, but kind of makes sense.
  5.  Issues related to particular ethnic/religious groups, who have been particularly badly hit.

If the f***ing tier system’s brought back, we’re knackered.  And it doesn’t work, anyway.  Nothing seems to work.  The Mayor of Preston’s suggested that the worst-hit areas should be prioritised for vaccination.  It’s a very sensible suggestion.

Nothing seems to bring my weight down, either.

There’s some talk of everyone in their 40s being vaccinated as soon as people in their 50s have been done.  The JCVI want to keep going down by age brackets.  But selfish teaching unions may pressurise the authorities into taking a different route.

The lockdown in Wales has been extended for another 3 weeks.

I hope Prince Philip’s OK.  He’s to remain in hospital until next week.

The second Aussie Open SF was, sadly, a bit of a damp squib … so frustrating that Stef, having beaten Rafa, lost rather tamely to Daniil.

Weather cold and windy.

I really am fed up.   We’ve had 11 months of this.  I want to see my sister and bro-in-law and the kids.  I want to go to the Lake District.  I want to go on holiday.  I want to go to Old Trafford.   I’d quite like just to go into town.  Some days, I can Keep Calm and Carry On.  Some days, I just want to kick and scream!

 

Saturday, February 20th

Thoroughly fed up.  The borough of Bury now has the 20th highest rate in the country.  Bolton’s got the 10th highest rate in the country, but at least rates there are coming down.  Tameside’s seen the biggest week-on-week increase in the country.  WHY is our area being hit so hard by this?  Nearly all the areas down south which had rates way above ours in late December have now got rates well below ours.  Why won’t ours come down?

Also, every time I lose a few pounds, they go straight back on.  What am I meant to do, starve?  I look like a Great Fat Hair Monster.

And I’d intended to go to Hollingworth Lake after the Aussie Open ladies’ singles final – which saw Naomi Osaka beat Jennifer Brady – but, due to miserable weather, just went to the park, again.

Bleurgh.

Bleurgh indeed.

Why is our area being so badly affected?

Also very concerned about Prince Philip.  Prince Charles went to visit him today, and visitors aren’t generally being allowed.

 

Sunday, February 21st

Boris says that all adults in the UK should have been offered a vaccination by the end of July.  Let’s hope so!  Vaccinations are the only way out of this – we thought last summer that maybe we could live with it, but then it came roaring back with a vengeance.

Israel’s reopened hotels, gyms, zoos, museums, etc … but only to people who’ve been vaccinated.  To be fair, I think most adults there have now been offered a vaccination, but it’s incredibly hard on those who want to be vaccinated but haven’t been called yet.

The Aussie Open final was a damp squib.  Bah.  Daniil put up a fight in the first set, but Nole took it 7-5, and then broke back after Daniil had led in the 2nd set, and it was one way traffic after that.  Better news with United beating Newcastle, 3-1, but City are running away with it.

Today has been a better day.  The weather was better, and I went to Hollingworth Lake and it really helped just to get a little way away from home.  I love the park and the local takeaway cafes, but I really am feeling trapped.  And I had a terrible day yesterday.  Everyone’s having bad days, and all you can say to people is to try to move on and hope that the next day will be better, but that doesn’t work for me because of The Scales.  The main reason I was so upset was because, after my weight had stayed the same for a few days, I’d somehow put on 3lbs between Friday and my official weigh day on Saturday.  That on top of everything else triggered the worst compulsive eating binge I’d had in ages, and, because The Scales love to kick you when you’re down, of course I’d put on another lb today.  So I can’t move on.  It’s hard enough to lose 1lb, never mind 4.  I’m struggling with OCD issues as well … it’s hard to control anything when you’re trapped like this, and all the things you normally do to cope are banned.   And it’s hard to feel positive when rates are rising here even though they’re falling practically everywhere else.  You feel bad for moaning, but a lot of people are struggling.

Boris is making his big announcement tomorrow.  I feel sorry for him: whatever he says, people will moan.  But we can’t go on like this.

No daffodils at Hollingworth Lake yet, but there were crocuses.

We know that the risk of transmission outdoors is low.  Lift these horrible travel restrictions.  Please.

Lockdown III Week 6, February 8th to 14th 2021 inclusive

Monday, February 8th

Hooray, the Australian Open has started.  My sleep patterns are being disrupted and I am totally stressed out about Rafa’s injury problems.  This is normal.  Hooray – something is normal!  Cracking match between Denis Shapovalov and Jannik Sinner.  Just such a shame that they had to meet in the first round.

It’s wonderful to see crowds in … but, although it’d been agreed that 30% of tickets could be sold, the place didn’t look anything like 30% full.  That suggests that people are nervous.

Due to the Australian Open, I went to Tesco this evening (in a snow shower!), rather than going tomorrow morning.  The store has been “revamped”.  Everything has been moved round, in a completely illogical way.  Neither customers nor staff know where anything is.  Some marketing consultants in London have no doubt been paid a fortune for deciding that cordial/squash should be put at the opposite end of the shop to all the other soft drinks, and that the shelves where it used to be should now contain toilet roll instead.  Why?  Why??

The studies regarding the “South African variant” are only small-scale, but it does look as if the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, and probably the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson and Novavax vaccines too, are less effective against it than against other strains.  They’ll still protect against serious illness, which is the main thing, but not against mild illness.  And, even if the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine’s OK against this, the horrible virus seems to be so clever that it’ll probably mutate in a way that’ll outsmart that too.  Viruses do mutate, and vaccines can be tweaked, but doom merchants are saying that the “South African variant” will take over the UK and probably the world, and that we’ll be in lockdown until the summer/2022/the end of time.  The Government’s telling everyone to stay calm, but it’s certainly worrying news.  Every time we seem to be getting towards the finishing line in this pandemic, something else happens.

City and Liverpool have both got to play their away legs against German teams in Budapest, as the German authorities won’t let any British teams in.  My holiday company have cancelled everything up to and including the end of April now.  Matt Hancock had been talking about a “Great British Summer”, but now both he and Jonathan Van-Tam are saying that it’s too soon to talk even about staycations.

Later – oh, FFS.  Not only are 7 of the 10 local boroughs now above the national average infection rate, but now there’s a Moss Side Mutant.  It’s a mutant of the Kent mutant.  Only 4 cases, but “surge testing” is starting in Moss Side and neighbouring areas.  First Liverpool and Bristol, now Manchester 😦 .  I assume that mutations are happening in other countries too, and it’s just that we’re doing extra genomic sequencing (or whatever the correct term is) here, and being honest about it?   But, just a few days ago, optimism was rising, because the vaccination rollout was going so well, and now … snakes and ladders, and we seem to have gone down another snake.

 

Tuesday, February 9th

I should be getting ready to board a crowded tram and head off to Old Trafford, to watch United v West Ham in the Cup along with 78,000 other people.  Instead, I’ll be watching it on the telly.  Oh well.

After all the stress over Rafa’s bad back, he beat Djere in straight sets 🙂 .  It’s a very tough draw, with both Tsitsipas and Medvedev looking very strong today, but one match at a time.

More snow fell overnight, but it’s gone now.

And, in virus news, people returning from “red list” countries will now have to pay £1,750 to stay in a quarantine hotel, and face fines of up to £10,000 and even a jail sentence if they break the rules.  Having said which, a woman’s told the papers how, on returning to London after visiting her mother in South Africa, she was able to walk out of Heathrow airport without being asked for either her passenger locator form or her proof of a negative virus test.  Not very good, is it?

Travelling is so, so important to me, and I’ve been fortunate enough to go to so many wonderful places.  I’ve got photos all over the house of me at the Taj Mahal, Macchu Pichu, Gettysburg, Red Square, Tiananmen Square, Table Mountain, the Pyramids, the Mount of Olives, the Venice Carnival (sadly cancelled this year, again), a glacier on the Jungfrau, etc etc.  When I got back from the Viennese Christmas markets in December 2019, I started to get excited about my planned trips to Iceland for July 2020 and Japan for October 2020, buying guidebooks and history books and historical novels, and learning some basic Icelandic words and phrases.  This is my life … and now it isn’t.  For the last four months, I haven’t even been able to go on a day trip to Blackpool.  I hate not being able to go to the Lakes.  I haven’t seen my sister and brother-in-law and nephews since August.  I haven’t been to a football match since last March.  I haven’t been to the theatre or the cinema since last February.  I haven’t even sat in a café since October.  Yet I’m chained to the office computers for the best part of five days a week, and I’ve still got all the housework to do.  I know I’m moaning, but I think we’re all entitled to moan.

Our Europa League match at Real Sociedad has been moved to Turin, and Arsenal’s at Benfica has been moved to Rome.  Italy will exempt professional sports players from quarantine.  As flights from Portugal to the UK are currently suspended, Arsenal’s “home” leg will be played in Athens.  This is getting a bit barmy.

To finish on a happy note, Princess Eugenie’s given birth to a baby boy 🙂 .  Mother and son both doing well 🙂 .

Later – hooray, we’re into the Cup QFs, after beating West Ham 1-0.  Dire match, and it went to extra time, but never mind!

 

Wednesday, February 10th

More snow today, but, thankfully, it hasn’t stuck.  Chelsea’s match at Atletico Madrid has been moved to Bucharest.  Moving football matches is one thing, but Jurgen Klopp’s been told that he can’t go to Germany to attend his mum’s funeral.  I understand that the virus doesn’t care what your reasons for travelling are, but it seems so cruel.

Having been told that by Matt Hancock and Boris that we could look forward to a “Great British Summer”, we’ve now been told by Grant Shapps and Jonathan Van-Tam that no-one should be booking anything.  One MP’s accused Shapps of killing people’s hope.  That’s exactly how it feels.  Morale is pretty low.   And there’s more and more talk about “vaccine passports” – Israel is going to let people who’ve been vaccinated back into hotels and gyms, and some countries are saying that they’ll admit tourists who’ve been vaccinated – which is very demoralising if you’re not in one of the priority groups.

Prince Charles and Camilla have had their first vaccinations.  The WHO’s backed the use of the Oxford AstraZeneca jab.  Serbia’s bought vaccines from Russia and China, and is now steaming ahead of the EU countries.

And I am fat.

 

Thursday, February 11th

Hooray, comfortable win for Rafa over Michael Mmoh.  He now plays Cam Norrie.  It does stress me out when he plays British players: I feel like I’m about to be carted off to the Tower of London for treason for wanting the Brit to lose, LOL.

Very cold today, but very sunny too.  The lake in the park looked amazing, frozen over and with yesterday’s snow still on it, and you could see Saddleworth Moor (photo on the right) and Kinder Scout (left), both covered in snow.

But, lovely as it was, it was so frustrating, because we can’t go anywhere.  Windermere must have looked glorious today.  This is dragging on and on, and tempers are fraying.  We were told that we’d get some news on the “roadmap” out of lockdown on February 22nd.  Now we’re being told “the week of February 22nd” – which could mean February 28th!  I feel very sorry for Boris.  If he doesn’t do as the scientists say, and death rates go up again, everyone will be yelling and screaming that he’s got blood on his hands and it’s all his fault for not doing as the scientists say.  But the scientists want us locked down indefinitely.  Their view seems to be that lockdown should continue until infection rates come right down.

And it’s not happening.  Rates here are plateauing.  They’re actually going up in Bolton, due to a spike in Horwich.  We’ve been told that the vaccination programme, as well as it’s going, is having no effect on infection rates as yet.  Yes, I know that it’s supposed to take three weeks before the first vaccine dose offers any protection, but a lot of infections are amongst younger people, the ones most likely to be out and about, and it’s going to be late summer before younger people get their first jab.

The scientists also say that viruses don’t go by the calendar, so giving dates for reopening is inappropriate.  And, fair point, viruses don’t go by the calendar.  But how long are we going to keep businesses shut, the state paying people’s wages, tourist resorts’ economies going down the pan, and kids out of school?  Not to mention the mental health impact.  There’s going to come a time where people start asking what the hell the point of all this is, if we’re not being given any idea of how and when we move forward.

I really do feel sorry for Boris.  It’s just an impossible situation.

 

Friday, February 12th

Chinese New Year.  Hmm.

Oh no!!   13 cases of the wretched virus have been identified in Melbourne, all linked to a quarantine hotel.  So the state of Victoria is back in lockdown.  The tennis can continue, but behind closed doors.  What a rotten shame, after 5 lovely days (crowds were allowed in today) of having fans back in.  Well, nearly 5 days – people were booted out in the middle of the Djokovic v Thiem match, because it was getting towards midnight.  Like some bizarre version of Cinderella.

The R number nationwide is now below 1, but cases are rising in Bolton, and are now starting to rise in the borough of Bury … still down week-on-week, but up on earlier this week.  Officials in Bolton say that it’s mainly amongst people of working age, which makes sense. – and the same thing’s happening in Liverpool.  Some jobs cannot be done from home, and that applies far more in the North West than in, say, London.  And some workplaces are open when they jolly well shouldn’t be.  Sometimes, however hard you try, you can’t reduce the risk entirely.  And some places just aren’t bothering about Covid safety: the authorities can hardly inspect every small workplace, and people are frightened to speak up because there’s so little job security at the moment.  And places that are open when people could be working from home are hardly likely to prioritise safety anyway.  It’s a huge problem.  Vaccination is not going to stop this until younger people have been vaccinated.  If the bloody tier system is brought back, what happens to us then?

Lots of groups are demanding priority for vaccination.  Teachers.  Firefighters.  Shop staff.  Public transport drivers.  They’ve all got a very valid case, but it’s just not possible to prioritise everyone.  London police (it would be the London police) are now threatening legal action, like teaching unions did.  FFS, we need to be working together here, not threatening legal action.

And the economy shrank by nearly 10% last year.

Still cold and sunny.

 

Saturday, February 13th

Rafa beat Cam Norrie (I do hate it when he plays British players – I end up feeling like I’m about to be carted off to the Tower of London for high treason) 🙂 … but now plays Fabio, against whom he does tend to struggle.

I was very glad to have the tennis to watch because, otherwise, I’d have got very upset over the fact that a sunny Saturday in mid-February would have been the perfect day on which to see the snowdrops at Chirk Castle.  Boris is supposed to be coming up with this “road map” on February  22nd, but heaven knows when travel restrictions will be lifted.  If he reintroduces the bloody tier system, I’m going to stage a revolution …. if Andy Burnham doesn’t beat me to it.   I don’t feel too bad, but I know that my anxiety levels are high because I’m getting a lot of anxiety pains and I’m crying over things which wouldn’t normally get to me.  Several friends have said that they’re finding things very hard.  And there’s nothing that anyone can do.  There are all these “lockdown tips” about meditation or yoga or whatever.  I do not need to meditate.  I need to see my sister and brother-in-law and the kids, and my uncle and cousins, and I need to go to the Lake District.

I was hoping that, today, I might actually get some time to read, catch up on the TV backlog, and sort out photos … but I ended up spending ages on the phone to Sky, who’d messed up my bill for the second time in three months, and ages throwing warm water over the boiler condenser pipe. which, despite having insulation stuff on it to stop it freezing, had, er, frozen.  It was quite satisfying when a huge lump of ice shot out of it.  But it was a terrible waste of time.  And water.

Both Matt Hancock and Boris have said that we’re going to have to learn to live with Covid, but the scientists are saying that we need to eliminate it entirely.  I think they want us locked up for ever more.   The economy, people’s mental health and children’s education can’t take much more.  There’s going to be a load more moaning when tax allowances are frozen in the Budget, but the money for the furlough scheme and the small business grants has got to come from somewhere.   I actually saw one ridiculous article saying that we should just print more money!  What, like the Weimar Republic did?  What rubbish.

Tennis and football tomorrow.  The Six Nations is going on too, and the cricket.  So glad that we’ve got sport to focus on!

 

Sunday, February 14th

As hoped, 15 million people in the UK have now received their first jab.  Pretty much everyone in the top four groups has been offered a jab.   Good news!

63 Tory MPs have said that all restrictions should be lifted by May.  That’s going too far – we can’t have hordes of unvaccinated people packed into nightclubs, or 500 guests at weddings – but we really cannot go on like this.  Public opinion hasn’t turned against the lockdown yet, but we do need this “road map” out of it.   I know it’s an impossible situation, but education, employment and mental health are all becoming serious concerns.

One of our local councillors rang me today.  They are apparently concerned about how people are coping in these difficult times, and want to make sure that people are OK and ask if they need any help.  It’s eleven months since we first went into lockdown, and now, just as elections are coming up, councillors are concerned about people … funny, that!   We had quite a nice chat, though.

My weight is a disaster.  2lbs off.  Hooray!  2lbs straight back on.  WHY??!!

The Premier League is also turning into a disaster: we only managed a 1-1 draw at West Brom.  Not a great day in Melbourne either: much as I like to see Grisha (Dimitrov) doing well, I would rather he hadn’t thrashed Dominic (Thiem), because Dominic was the one with the best chance of beating Nole.  Sascha Zverev, over to you.  Rafa and Fabio have got a day match tomorrow, so I’ve set the alarm for stupid o’clock!

The WHO team in Wuhan don’t seem to be getting very far with getting information.  Will we ever find out how this nightmare started?

On a happier note, Prince Harry and Meghan are expecting another baby.

Six weeks of Lockdown III.

 

Lockdown III Week 5, February 1st to 7th 2021 inclusive

Monday, February 1st

Boris has hinted that the Evil Tier System could be dropped.  But hasn’t made a definite commitment.   He was in Batley this morning, and a reporter had a go at him for picking on the North … well, not in so many words, but he (the reporter) did point out that the North had been under restrictions for far longer than the South.

However, there are more problems with these wretched mutant variants.  There is now another mutant variant, this time in California. And, worryingly, two cases of the South African variant have been picked up in people with no known connection to South Africa, in Woking. It’s not far from Heathrow, so is it possible that a member of airport staff’s caught the virus and inadvertently passed it on in the community?  Or that someone’s got it elsewhere?  And we’ve now been told that there are 105 cases in all, in various areas – including Southport, which is rather too close to comfort.

This is why we need tougher travel restrictions, for now.  There could be more mutants anywhere, which haven’t been identified yet.

On a more positive note, every care home resident in England has now been offered a vaccination, which is an important milestone. And the rollout to the overseas territories has begun – some doses of the Oxford vaccine have embarked on a 17 hour journey to the Falkland Islands!  Also, Israel’s reported very promising results from its vaccination programme. Nothing’s going to be 100% effective, but only a very small number of people have become ill after being fully vaccinated. Wonderful news.

The Isle of Man’s completely out of lockdown – no social distancing, no closures.

February got off to a stressful start when Samsung released a phone update.  I am terrified of phone updates.  I wish there was a way of stopping them.  They’re usually fairly minor, but this one changed a few things, and a) it took me a while to find something afterwards and b) it stopped one of my apps from working.  I updated the individual app and, touch wood, it’s OK now, but the whole thing panicked me, knowing that I couldn’t go to a shop and ask for help if I needed it.  Anyway, let’s try to move on from that …

But it is so nice having some tennis to watch.  And I’m back with the spray on hair dye, which is a pain but is better than having grey roots.

And this is Children’s Mental Health Week.  It’s a tough time to be a kid.  One “expert” suggested that everyone should repeat an academic year, but a) some kids are doing OK and b) it’s not practical anyway, because then there’d be no room for the little ones due to start school in September.   Another suggestion’s been cancelling the school summer holidays, on the assumption that schools are open again by then, but a) teachers would never agree to it and b) parents will then be unable to go on holiday … if anyone can go anywhere by then.

 

Tuesday, February 2nd

Very sad news this afternoon, with the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore, aged 100.  He died “with coronavirus” (with tragic irony, he may well have contracted it in hospital), but it’s emerged that he’d had pneumonia for several weeks.  To live to 100, and still to be completely mentally alert and relatively physically fit, is a wonderful thing, and to inspire an entire country, and indeed much of the world, in a time of crisis is just incredible.  There are so few of that wonderful generation left.  Sad, sad news.  I cried over that.  Such a loss.  But a wonderful, long life.

And we’ve been told that the so-called “Kent mutation” has mutated again – this time in the same sort of nasty way as the Brazilian and South African variants.  Whether it did this off its own bat or whether it “got together” with one of the others (as a scientist on Sky News put it, which makes it sound as if they all got together for a few bevvies and to have a good laugh at us), who knows?  I do get that viruses mutate, but we keep being told that there’s a race between the virus and the vaccine, and it feels as if the virus isn’t playing fair.  Unfortunately, it isn’t really possible to disqualify it.

We’re being told that there are “mutations of concern” in Liverpool and Bristol now.   There was some talk about a mutation in Liverpool a few weeks ago.  And it’s only 35 miles away.   It could be a coincidence, but … Kent, Liverpool, Bristol – is there something going on with ports?  Maybe like “freshers’ flu” at universities, where germs from lots of different areas mingle and get swapped around?   People in those areas are being told to avoid going out, which is scary.

I’m concerned about the fact that infection rates in Greater Manchester are not falling as quickly as they are elsewhere … places which saw a surge in December are seeing much bigger drops than places where rates were already relatively high.  Is the virus now “endemic” in some areas, as was suggested in August or September?  Will this nightmare EVER end?

A few examples, rates @ 28/01/21 compared to (rates @ 21/01/21) – Knowsley 611 (898), Sandwell 547 (841), Blackburn 464 (570), Liverpool 388 (608), Carlisle 359 (607), Barnet 330 (545), central Manchester 299 (369), Bristol 269 (349), Bury 264 (333), Kirklees 234 (262), Cheshire East 197 (275), Newcastle 182 (253), South Lakes 167 (252), E Devon 109 (127), NE Lincs 92 (104).

Meanwhile, I was actually quite enthusiastic about getting up this morning, despite snow and heavy rain, because Rafa was meant to be playing in the ATP World Team Cup at 8 o’clock our time.  But he didn’t, because of a “stiff lower back”.  With less than a week to go before the Australian Open, this is pretty worrying.  Let’s just hope it’s nothing serious.

But tonight, hooray, we beat Southampton 9-0!   9-0.  So frustrating that we couldn’t be there to see it at the ground rather than on telly, but still … 9-0.  Sorry, Southampton, nothing personal, but, wa-hey!!

 

Wednesday, February 3rd

Good news:

– 10 million people in the UK have now received their first dose of a vaccine.
–  Research shows that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine protects against transmission, and that the 12 week gap
between doses is OK.
–  Numbers of Covid patients in hospital are falling.

But the numbers of deaths are still horrendous, and many people remain in hospital.  And there’s now the additional worry that your area could be the next one affected by an Unexplained Mutant Incident.  And 5 out of the 10 local boroughs have now got rates above the national average – falling, but not as quickly as the national average is falling.

And the Australian Open traumas continue.  First, Rafa said that he wasn’t going to play tomorrow because his back was still sore.  This really, really is worrying.  Then it was announced that a staff member at one of the hotels had tested positive, everyone at the hotel was going to have to self-isolate until they’d tested negative, and all tomorrow’s matches in all six warm-up events were cancelled!

Also, some insensitive person decided to include a huge photo article in the latest magazine on forthcoming highlights.  Including snowdrops at Chirk Castle and daffodils at Sizergh Castle.  Both of which I want so much to see, but won’t be doing.  It was like Jim Bowen saying “And here’s what you could have won”.  Bah.

I’ve bought more spray on hair dye.  I’d forgotten what a mess it makes of the shower curtain (when it washes out)!

I got my Christmas presents from my sister today 🙂 .  She decided to post rather them rather than keep waiting for these infernal travel restrictions to be lifted.

And it’s been confirmed that the Eurovision Song Contest will go ahead.  I’m not sure whether this is good news or bad news 😉 .

 

Thursday, February 4th

One in five adults in the UK has now had a dose of the vaccine, and research suggests that it might be OK to mix and match, i.e. it won’t matter whether or not your first and second doses are of the same vaccine.  And the Bank of England apparently thinks that the economy will bounce back strongly in the spring.  Not if we’re locked down till May, which seems to be what the scientists want, it won’t.  A lot of questions are being asked about restrictions being eased.

One question is whether or not people who’ve had both doses of the vaccine will be able to meet up.  This issue seems to be being raised in Germany as well.  If you’ve been fully vaccinated, and so has your sister/brother/cousin/close friend whom you haven’t seen since October, it’s going to be very frustrating to be told that you still can’t see them.  But, if we start creating a two-tier society, with those of us not in the priority groups becoming some sort of underclass, there’s going to be a lot of upset and resentment.  Difficult situation.

The Pet Shop Boys concert which I was due to go to in May 2020, and which was rescheduled for May 2021, has now been rescheduled again, this time for May 2022.  Third time lucky?  Just please tell me that we’ll be able to go on staycations in July.  I actually cried when I saw shots of Windermere on Joanna Lumley’s new travel programme.  So Lakes-sick 😦 .

The Australian Open draw’s been postponed, because 160 players are awaiting the results of tests.  Only one person at the hotel seems to have the virus, and it’ll be very bad luck if anyone else has caught it, so fingers crossed that it’ll be OK.  But I’m extremely concerned about the injury.  Spain’s tie against Greece has been rescheduled for tomorrow, but Rafa says that he’s still not ready to play a full match.  If he’s not ready to play on Friday, and this would only be best of 3, and the Aussie Open starts on Monday … it’s not sounding good 😦 .

A London Church of England clergyman’s tweeted that: “The cult of Captain Tom is a cult of White British Nationalism”.  This why society’s so divided, because of comments like that – and at a time when Captain Tom’s family and friends are mourning his loss.  The Diocese of London has, quite correctly, said that his “comments regarding Captain Sir Tom Moore were unacceptable, insensitive, and ill-judged”.

And the German government is refusing to let Liverpool into Germany for their Champions League match against Leipzig.  This could all get pretty messy.  Benfica won’t be allowed into the UK for the Europa League match against Arsenal … unless an exemption for elite sports players is agreed, as has been done in Italy for the forthcoming tennis event there.

 

Friday, February 5th

My car went for its MOT today.  MOTs were suspended during Lockdown I, but are now operating as normal.  The garage sent me an e-mail asking me to drive there with all the windows down, but I’m afraid I didn’t – although it’s only 3 miles away, there are umpteen sets of traffic lights en route, and I wouldn’t have felt safe sitting in a stationary ca with all the windows down.   And I had to take everything out other than the wheel nuts and the service book.  Fortunately, all that was needed was a new windscreen wiper blade.  I’ve been nervous about MOTs ever since I took a previous car in, blithely thinking everything was OK, and it needed hundreds of pounds worth of repairs.

Nice weather today, but more snow forecast for next week.  FFS!

I am really stressy at the moment.  A lot of it’s to do with my weight.  I’m going for a long walk every day, and walking up and down steps as well, but I cannot shift the weight.  I don’t generally put weight on at home in a normal week, maybe a couple of pounds on some weeks and off in others, but weight piles on on holiday and over Christmas and just won’t come off.  I have spent my entire life battling my weight.  So demoralising.

Local elections are going ahead in May.  BYOB – bring your own biro!  Our council are fairly hopeless regardless of who’s elected, but the fact that the elections are going ahead does suggest that restrictions will have been eased by early May.  They’d better have been!   Scientists keep saying that the authorities shouldn’t give dates, and I take the point that the virus doesn’t work by the calendar, but that’s easy to say when you’re not the one with no idea when your business can reopen or when your kids can go back to school  And everyone’s mental health is starting to suffer.   Miserable people are saying that no-one should go on holiday this summer because it’s irresponsible, but the people saying that are invariably people who don’t work, just as the people who are saying that dates shouldn’t be given are people whose income isn’t being affected by the lockdown.   The good news is that the R rate is below 1, and cases are falling in most areas.

And I’m sad because Christopher Plummer’s died 😦 .  I do know that he wasn’t just Captain Von Trapp, but I love him so much in that role.

 

Saturday, February 6th

It’s rained so much that Salford City v Bolton was called off due to a waterlogged pitch.  United v Everton was not called off … but we conceded an equaliser in the last bloody second of injury time, dropping two points.   So, so disappointing.

When it stopped raining, I went out, only for there to be serious trauma when The Coffee Sack hadn’t got any scones.  I must have looked very upset, because the man gave me a free cup of tea!  I did get a scone from M&S later, but I was hungry, so I ended up getting crumpets in the park.  No wonder I’m so fat!

And then, even though the forecast’d given more heavy rain for later, I stupidly stayed out longer than I should have done, and got rather wet despite my brolly.

Oh dear!!

On a happier note, Dan Evans is into the final of the Murray River event.  Good to see him playing so well.  Shame he’s in the same section of the draw as Rafa and his bad back, though.

 

Sunday, February 7th

Heavy snow’s hit parts of S E England, as well as the Netherlands and N W Germany.  We only got a few flakes here, thankfully, but I could see loads of snow on the hills when I went to Hollingworth Lake this morning.

It was lovely, despite the cold wind, but I’m sad because I should have been doing the snowdrop walks at Rode Hall today … the first rite of spring.  I’m also a bit sad at the thought of having to use Amazon Prime as the Easter Bunny for a second successive year, rather than being able to give my nephews their Easter eggs in person.

It looks as if everyone may need a “top-up” jab in the autumn.  It’s not clear whether this is a general top-up thing or whether it’s to do with concerns that the original vaccine formula may not be entirely effective against this dangerous new variant from South Africa.  Concerns are also growing about low take-up of the vaccine in some ethnic groups.  For example, amongst over 80s in Bradford, 97% of white people took the vaccine, but only 77% of people of Pakistani heritage.   But the rollout is proceeding apace, and we’re on target for everyone in the highest risk groups to’ve had their first jab by February 15th.

I am so sick of all this.  Please, please let us get back to some sort of normality by June.

Some good news – Dan Evans won the Murray River Open.  But I am very stressed about Rafa’s back injury …

 

Lockdown III Week 4, January 25th to 31st 2021 inclusive

 

Monday, January 25th

Boris says that all adults in the UK will have been offered a first dose of the vaccine “by the autumn”.  What does that mean?  The beginning of September?  Or later?

Pressure’s growing for answers on when schools might reopen, but the Government just can’t answer that.  Data out today shows that teachers haven’t been affected any more than the population in general, but I doubt that that’ll stop the teaching unions from moaning.  Male factory workers are, sadly, most likely to have died from the virus.

Israel’s banning all international flights for a fortnight.  There’s talk of doing that here, or of using quarantine hotels like Australia’s doing.  I don’t understand why so many people are travelling.  There’ve been pictures of long queues at Heathrow.  The people in them weren’t in uniform, so they clearly weren’t airline crew staffing cargo flights.  And don’t tell me that they were all travelling for “essential work” purposes.  Some of them were kids!   Some people are being fined for driving 20 miles from Preston to Bolton and yet others are jetting off on holiday.  It’s not on.  How do they get away with it.

All Debenhams shops are to close permanently, although the “brand” has been taken over and will continue online.

On a happier note, more mass vaccination centres have opened, including one at the Blackpool Winter Gardens and one on Lancaster Cathedral.

More snow overnight.   Luckily, most of it’s melted now.  It looked very pretty under the blue sky, but I need to get to Tesco and M&S tomorrow!

And we really are terribly well-behaved in this country 🙂 .  There’ve been riots in the Netherlands, after the Dutch government announced new restrictions!

 

Tuesday, January 26th

The UK death toll from the pandemic passed 100,000 today.  We’ll never know the real death toll.  There’ll be people in the “official” figures who died of other things but had tested positive for the virus within 28 days.  There’ll be people who died of the virus but hadn’t had a test within 28 days, or (in the early days) at all.  There’ll be deaths caused indirectly by the virus – treatment for other conditions delayed, or, especially amongst elderly people in care homes, not allowed visitors, mental deterioration leading to physical deterioration.  But, comparing the expected/average death figures since the pandemic started with the actual death figures, 100,000’s probably about right.  A hundred thousand people.  All leaving behind devastated relatives and friends.

To put it into additional perspective, around 40,000 people were killed in the Blitz.

I actually cried when Sky News said 100,000.  We knew it’d be today, but the number just hit me.  A hundred thousand people.

I’m never sure how reliable the various figures are (I don’t believe any of the statistics that’ve come out of Russia, China or Iran), and I know that every country’s recording virus deaths differently, but some figures for deaths per million people, on what seems to be a reliable website, are – Belgium 1812, Slovenia 1618, UK 1474, Czech Republic 1448, Italy 1424, Bosnia-Herzegovina 1391, USA 1277, Peru 1218, Spain 1194, France 1082, Sweden 1070, Brazil 1031, the Netherlands 777, Germany 639, Rep of Ireland 602, India 112, Australia 25, New Zealand 5.

The political points-scorers are busily blaming Boris.  And, yes, mistakes have been made.  We should have closed our borders last February.  We should have locked down earlier.  But we weren’t that far after a lot of other countries.  Maybe we reopened too early.  But then so did a lot of other countries.  The second wave hit Spain long before it hit us.  And Sweden never really locked down at all.  Lockdown issues have certainly played a part.  But there has to be other stuff going on too.  The obvious answer is that it’s to do with population density, and concentration of population in urban centres.  Other demographic issues may also be involved – age, ethnicity.  Could occupations be a factor?  And travel? –  a lot of people pass through London, in particular, and a lot of people use crowded public transport to get to work.  Other health issues? – to do with demographics, climate, diet? I don’t know.  But someone needs to find out.

We need to know why the UK has been so badly hit.  And we, in the North, and especially in the North West, need to know why our region has been so badly hit.

Further to the Snapfish saga, they have, at the third attempt, managed to print the order correctly.  However, they sent it in two different envelopes (they often do this, I know not why) and only one has arrived.  They do occasionally get separated in the post and arrive on different days, so I’m just hoping that the rest turn up tomorrow.

The car was iced up so badly when I went out (to go to Tesco and M&S) this morning that I couldn’t even open the doors until I’d cleared the ice.  Later, it warmed up a bit, but poured down.  No-one is feeling great at the moment.  Cold rain does not help.

And, on a happier note, my brother-in-law’s mum and dad (in the 70-74 age group) both had their first doses of the vaccine today.

 

Wednesday, January 27th

Oh FFS.  City won last night, to take top spot ahead of us.  Tonight, we were playing Sheffield United who, with all due respect to them, had only won one match all season … until tonight, when they beat us 2-1.  Bloody hellfire 😦 .

No update on any sort of plan even to begin easing restrictions until the end of February.  And schools won’t reopen until March 8th at the earliest.  And then it’ll be, hey, a few rural areas, off you go, and to hell with other areas.  What is to be done to help kids in the worst-affected areas?   There’s been some talk of cancelling the summer holidays, but there’s no way teachers’ll agree to that.  And WHEN will we be able to travel even within the UK?

A few examples of infection rates (which I know aren’t the only factors involved, but we don’t get breakdowns by area of the other stats:

Knowsley 882, Sandwell 808, Slough 753, Brent 677, Birmingham 597

Hyndburn 568, Carlisle 544, Norwich 465, Southampton 404

Manchester central 356, Bristol 331, Bury 316, Leeds 294, Sheffield 240, Newcastle 238

… and then right down to NE Lincs on 100, and Torridge (Devon) 51

 

There are all sorts of rows going on over vaccine supplies.  Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca are both struggling to meet existing orders.  I’m sure they’re doing their best, but Germany’s threatening to stop Pfizer exports and Italy’s threatening to sue.  The EU is trying to control all member states by imposing some sort of joint vaccine supply programme, although Hungary (good for Hungary!) has gone its own way and ordered supplies from Russia.  The EU also seems to think that its orders should be prioritised over everyone else’s.  Their deal with Astra Zeneca wasn’t made until three months after the UK’s, but, a bit like Verruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they are stamping their feet and screaming “I want it now” (well, not quite, but not far off).  Talk about selfish and petulant.  And vaccine supplies to North West England, and other parts of the North, are to be reduced by a third, and supplies diverted to London, which is running behind.

Quarantine hotels are to be brought in, but only for people entering from certain countries.  Oh FFS.  It takes weeks and weeks before mutant strains are identified.  For all we know, mutant strains could currently be on the loose in France or Germany or Outer Mongolia or anywhere.  And why are so many people travelling anyway?

On the positive side, the rest of my Snapfish order has arrived.  And one of the park cafes has said that they’re introducing a 20% discount for regulars, which I class as!  And it’s been dry, and a lot warmer than usual.

Theoretically, things should feel better once we get more daylight and warmer weather.  And yet then it’ll hurt even more, because then I’ll be missing things.  I should be going to Rode Hall for the snowdrop walks next week.  Then to see the snowdrops at Chirk Castle, my pre-birthday treat.  And maybe to Rufford Old Hall and Arley Hall.  Then to Bettys in Ilkley, to see the Easter eggs and cakes.  Then into daffodil season – first Chirk, then Biddulph Grange, and then, most importantly of all, the Lakes.  Then the lambs, at Tatton Park and Bolton Abbey.  Then into bluebell season, Capesthorne Hall and Erddig and the Windermere west shore.  Will I get to do any of that?  The virtue signallers make you feel guilty for saying things like that, but more and more people are saying that they’re struggling.

 

Thursday, January 28th

Infection rates in our borough dropped below 300 yesterday.  5 of the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs are now below 300.  But we’re being told that the peak of hospital admissions is likely to come this weekend, and last for a while.

According to reports in the papers, non-essential shops (including hair salons?) aren’t likely to reopen until April.  And is that early April or late April?  And cafes and restaurants not until May.  Travel hasn’t been mentioned.  Nor have cinemas, theatres etc.  And heaven only knows when we’ll be able to go back to football matches, concerts etc.

The picture’s grim across most of Europe too.  France could be heading back into lockdown.  Madrid and Barcelona are running short of vaccine supplies.  Germany has said it’ll have vaccine supply issues until Easter.  Hospitals in Lisbon are running short of beds.  Over in the US, there are reports that a new variant may have emerged in California.   And Canada’s got concerns over vaccine supplies.  We don’t hear much from the rest of the world, but I gather that things are particularly bad in Mexico, and that parts of Peru are going back into lockdown.   And Lebanon’s in full lockdown: you’re not even allowed to go food shopping, but have to rely on deliveries.

Also, will someone please tell Nicola Sturgeon to STFU?  Seriously, is this the time to be mithering about an independence referendum?  She is so annoying.

Meanwhile, there are concerns about low take-up of the vaccine amongst some ethnic minority groups.  But, on a happier note, it looks as if the Novavax vaccine, being manufactured in Teesside, is pretty effective.

I am not finding it easy being chained to the office computer during the day, with virtually no contact from work (I’m not sure what I expect them to do, to be fair, but they could try to offer a bit of support) and doing housework, without having anything nice to look forward to at weekends … or for months ahead.

 

Friday, January 29th

I can’t believe what’s going on over the vaccines.  The European Commission has long been a deeply unpleasant organisation, but this just takes the biscuit.  If it weren’t for the companies who’ve developed the vaccines, we’d all be facing a future of either permanent lockdown or else millions more deaths, and many more people left with long term health problems, until herd immunity was reached.  Instead of thanking and praising these heroes, the European Commission has done nothing but issue them with threats and demands.  And insist that it should get first dibs on any vaccine produced, and to hell with the rest of the world, and never mind the fact that the UK order with Astra Zeneca was placed three months before its order was.   We’re all frustrated about the delays and production problems, but they’re pharmaceutical companies, not miracle workers.  There were bound to hiccups with operations on this scale.  And, now, export controls are being put on any supplies being exported from the EU – which is going to endanger anyone in non-EU countries who’s had the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and is waiting for the second, not to mention going against every trade deal going, as it would block the fulfilment of longstanding contracts.  Talk about I’m all right, Jack.

Meanwhile, Janssen, which is owned by Johnson & Johnson (I got confused by this and thought that two separate companies had both produced vaccines, but no!) have got a vaccine which is 66% effective, so not as good as the others, but only needs one dose.

In other news, Eurosport kindly televised the exhibition matches from Adelaide, so I got to see Rafa beat Dominic 🙂 .  And in front of a crowd!  So, so wonderful to see crowds back at matches.  When will it happen here?

And I had actually lost a few pounds from Saturday to Wednesday,  But half of them have suddenly gone back on on Wednesday and Thursday,  I just do not understand this.  One day could have been a blip, but two?  I haven’t done anything different.  I am very demoralised 😦 .

 

Saturday, January 30th

I am so, so disgusted with the European Commission.   They have totally screwed things up for 27 countries in terms of the vaccine roll-out, and are trying to divert attention from their incompetence by acting like arrogant, petulant bullies … which just makes them look even more incompetent.  Last night, an almighty row broke out when they decided to try to use Northern Ireland as a political football, saying that, in violation of the Brexit deal, they would impose border controls between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, to stop the UK from getting any vaccine supplies (yes, those vaccine supplies which will save people’s lives, and which the UK has quite legitimately ordered) from within the EU.   Without even bothering to consult the Republic of Ireland.  Or any other member states.  Everyone hit the roof – in London, in Belfast, in Dublin and elsewhere – and they had to back down.  I’m tempted to say “Hah”, but this really, really isn’t funny.  It’s left a very bad taste in everyone’s mouths.  And they’re still saying that they’ll block vaccine exports, although Michael Gove’s said that the UK’s vaccination programme won’t be affected.

It’s hard not to see this as the European Commission throwing its toys out of the pram because it can’t bear the fact that the UK vaccination programme’s going so much better than its own (Le Figaro‘s headline yesterday was “Vaccination: Brexit 1, Brussels 0”), but it won’t just affect the UK: it’ll affect Canada, Australia, Japan and many other countries too.

The WHO has condemned the European Commission’s vile attitude and behaviour.

Politicians and newspapers in various EU countries are extremely peed off with the European Commission.

Meanwhile, many highly vulnerable people in 27 countries, who could have been vaccinated by now had their governments made their own arrangements, are still waiting.

OK, enough about the vaccine row.   Two more points dropped today, in a 0-0 draw at Arsenal, whilst City won again.  Bah.  And I’m going to have to start using the spray on hair dye again: my grey roots are really showing.  Bah again.

On a happier note, I had such a nice time at Dunham Massey!  I’m disappointed about missing the snowdrops and early daffodils at Rode Hall and Chirk, but the Dunham Winter Garden, which I don’t normally go to at this time of year – I’m usually busy with the Australian Open during the second half of January, and then I prioritise Rode and Chirk in February – has got some beautiful, beautiful carpets of snowdrops, and quite a few early daffodils too.  I was so pleased that I went round the gardens, then round the deer park, and then back to the gardens for a second look!   Gorgeous 🙂 .

 

Sunday, January 31st

I found some snowdrops in the park today!  It was a bit of the park which I don’t normally go to, but I was trying to find a quiet area without any dogs … having been jumped up at my a horrible dog with filthy muddy paws.  Most of the mud brushed off, but the owner didn’t even apologise – just said “It’s a dog, what d’you expect?”.  I am so, so sick of dogs.  They are everywhere.  And the noise they make carries such a long way, especially with yappy little dogs with high-pitched barks.

Dogs apart, it was very nice in the park.

 

Scone courtesy of The Coffee Sack 🙂 .

Infection rates in Greater Manchester are still falling, but not as quickly as the national average, and the rate for the city centre is now above the average.  I really cannot face a return to the Evil Tier System and being told that other people can travel around the country, reopen their businesses and send their kids back to school, but we can’t, after everything we’ve been through already.  The situation nationwide seems to be stabilising, but we’re being told that it’ll be at least a fortnight before the impact of the vaccination programme starts to have any effect.  609,010 doses were given yesterday!  That’s the highest number yet.   Almost 9 million people have now received their first dose.

A WHO team’s in Wuhan, trying to get to the bottom of how this nightmare started, but I don’t think China will ever let us know.

Worrying news from Portugal, where patients are having to be sent abroad as there are hardly any intensive care beds left.  And also some worrying news here – Captain Sir Tom Moore’s in hospital with pneumonia and coronavirus.  Oh, what horrendous irony that one of the biggest heroes of this nightmare should contract the virus.  He’s not in intensive care, and hopefully he’ll be OK, but I was very upset to hear that he was ill.

And, despite a drop in temperature, it’s definitely feeling a bit springlike, but snow’s forecast for Tuesday.  Please, please do not cause any problems on Friday, when I need to take my car in for its MOT!

Lockdown III Week 3, January 18th to 24th 2021 inclusive

Monday, January 18th

Ten new mass vaccination centres opened today, including another two in the North West.  Some areas, and I’m pleased to say that ours is one of them, are moving on to people in the 70-74 age group and younger people who are classed as clinically vulnerable.  However, some areas aren’t going as quickly as others, which seems to be a supply issue.   But over 4 million people have had their first doses now, and (not that it’s a competition) we’ve got the fourth highest per capita rate in the world.

I had a letter from the building society today, saying that they want to put my mortgage protection insurance up because they expect loads of people to be made redundant this year.  Very cheerful!   I’m not sure how much of it is a genuine result of forecasts and how much is just an excuse to try to get more money out of people.

Someone got fined for driving from Preston to Bolton to collect a takeaway.  FFS.  OK, I’m sure there are plenty of takeaways in Preston, but it’s hardly a long journey, and they were in their own car.  Shouldn’t the police be concentrating on breaking up mass gatherings, or closing shops which are open illegally?  And the press are tutting over pictures of lots of people walking in parks etc.  This happened during the first lockdown.  If you live in a built-up, densely-populated area, and are not supposed to leave it, how are you supposed to exercise without there being other people around?

And could someone please tell Novak Djokovic to shut up?  It is obviously far from ideal that 72 players, and their coaches etc, are all shut in their hotel rooms, not even allowed to open the doors.  Especially when they need to keep fit ahead of a strenuous two week tournament in the heat.  Also, the food looks very poor, and we’ve all seen the pictures of the mouse in Yulia Putintseva’s room.  But it is not helpful for Nole to demand that they be moved to private homes with their own tennis courts!   He’s just annoying everyone and sounding like a spoilt brat.  The situation is a nightmare, though.

 

Tuesday, January 19th

1,610 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test have been recorded today, the highest figure since the pandemic began.  The figures have been much lower over the past couple of days and they probably do average out, but it’s still very, very distressing and worrying.

Infection rates are falling in 9 out of 10 Greater Manchester boroughs now.  But not as quickly as the national average is falling, although I suppose rates are bound to be falling more quickly in areas which went into Tier 4 first. Things are improving, though.  Infections and hospitalisations across the country are falling, but things are still grim.  The lockdown in Scotland’s been extended, and there’s no sign of restrictions being lifted anywhere else either.

Figures show that there are five times as many kids in school in England as there were during the first lockdown.  Whew!   I think we’re all aware that far more kids are in school, but five times as many?!  It’s been suggested that schools will reopen on a regional basis.  I quite see that there’s no point keeping kids out of school in Devon because infection rates are still high in Carlisle, for example, but it’s going to mean kids in the hardest-hit areas being at an even bigger disadvantage.

Today, I have been to:

  1. Tesco, where some of the staffed checkouts have been replaced by self-scanner checkouts.  Not self-service, which are bad enough, but self-scanner.  No doubt, in 10 years’ time staffed checkouts will seem as outdated as going into a corner shop and asking a grocer for six apples and two pounds of flour, but I prefer the staffed ones!
  2. Marks & Spencer’s, where, amongst other things, I collected the free pineapple which I had been awarded for using my Sparks card.  Life is so boring ATM that a free pineapple seems quite exciting.
  3.  The frozen yoghurt shop.
  4. The office, to leave some files and collect others.  There were loads of cars in the car park.  Some of the people at other firms in the building don’t seem even to be bothering to try working from home.
  5.  The park, in torrential rain.  Thanks to Storm Christophe, the weather is utterly vile.   I’m sure I should get double calorie burn-off for walking in that sort of weather.

And it’s Donald Trump’s last day in office.  Thank heavens for that.

 

Wednesday, January 20th

Every time you think things can’t get any worse, they do.  1,820 deaths recorded today.  Infections are falling, but the numbers of deaths are just horrendous.  On top of that, research from Israel suggests that one dose of vaccine may not be as effective as originally thought in preventing infection, so we may have to give everyone two doses before things start improving significantly.  Will this nightmare never end?

On top of that, the weather is horrendous, and there are fears that there may be flooding in parts of South Manchester and Cheshire, and maybe even in town.  I got drenched in the park, despite my brolly.  Then, during United v Fulham (luckily, we were away, and City played earlier), it started snowing.  A lot.

It’s very hard not to turn to food for comfort.

Players in quarantine at the mice-infested hotel in Melbourne have been advised to “minimise interaction” with the mice, i.e. not to feed them.  This is getting farcical.  I know it’s a very difficult situation and Tennis Australia have gone to a lot of effort, etc, but surely it’s not unreasonable to expect hotel rooms which aren’t full of mice!

On a happier note, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been sworn in.  I thought Biden spoke quite well, about the need to come together and work together.  I wish them both luck.  They’re going to need it!

And we’re back on top of the league, after a 2-1 win at Fulham.  Leicester went top last night, then City after their win in tonight’s early KO, and now us again.  It’s certainly exciting … just so sad that there’s no prospect of fans being allowed in this season.

 

Thursday, January 21st

It’s stopped raining, and, after two hours of heavy snow last night, there’s been no more snow.  Thankfully, the flood defences in the Didsbury/Northenden area held, but homes and businesses have been flooded in Lymm, Northwich and other parts of the North West.  Just as if things aren’t bad enough.  Boris has been to visit.  Not that there was much he could do, but at least he showed willing.

Northern Ireland’s lockdown’s been extended until March.

Concerns are rising over a low level of take-up of the vaccines in certain ethnic minority communities.  It seems to be a particular problem in the West Midlands.  Unfortunately, irresponsible people are spreading anti-vaxxer messages and frightening people.

There’ve also been reports that another new variant’s been found, this time in Liverpool.  Hopefully it’s something and nothing.  That really would be a nightmare.

Fines for attending house parties are to be increased.  It sounds good, but all people have to do is say that they can’t pay.

Glastonbury’s been cancelled, for a second successive year.  It’s not a surprise, but it’s a psychological blow, because it’s such a big event on the calendar, and it’s also yet another huge blow to the live music industry, and the events industry in general.   And one scientist’s said that pubs, restaurants, cafes etc shouldn’t be allowed to reopen until May.  The hospitality industry’s on its knees.  The travel industry’s on its knees.  A lot of sports clubs are on their knees.  Obviously, things cannot reopen under the present circumstances, but … bloody hellfire, how much longer can businesses survive?

 

Friday, January 22nd

A load of people formed an orderly queue outside a centre in Timperley after it was reported that it was going to be turned into a vaccination hub.  They hadn’t got appointments, and there weren’t even any doses of the vaccine there!  But it shows how desperate people are to get vaccinated.  There’ve been some reports of low uptake in certain areas, but I haven’t heard of any such issues in the North West.

The R number is now below 1, which is great news, but there were another 1,401 deaths today, and Boris has said that it’s feared that the mutant virus is more deadly than the original.  People from other parts of the country are being moved to hospitals in Greater Manchester.  There’ve been some calls to stop international travel completely, but I don’t know how practical that is when cargo still needs to be moved around.

There are reports that the Olympics could be cancelled.  I don’t think that the mayhem over the Australian Open’s helping.  Andy Murray won’t be playing in Melbourne because it just can’t be sorted in time.  There are a lot of arguments going on on social media over the whole quarantine situation.  It’s a nightmare.

Snapfish have reprinted my photos, but they’ve done the same thing again -jumbled them all up.  You can no longer ring up, and my “livechat” with someone who barely spoke a word of English was a waste of time.  Someone is supposed to be contacting me by e-mail.  I’m still waiting.

And I am so tired of all the hatred.  Why do people hate others so much, just because they vote for a different political party?  And why do they feel the need to post that all over social media?

At least the weather’s cleared up …

 

Saturday, January 23rd

It snowed quite heavily this morning.  When I got to the park – having stopped en route to pick up a scone 🙂 – there were lots of kids sledging and building snowmen.  The snow’d gone by early afternoon, so it didn’t cause any problems, and it was a bit of fun.  There are “Covid marshals” in the park at weekends, but a) they seemed more interested in messing with their phones than in watching people and b) no-one was doing anything wrong anyway.  It was too cold to hang around in big groups like people were doing in the spring.

The animal centre’s been closed since March.  Paying zoos opened up for a while, but the park centre didn’t.  The animals look rather bored and lonely 😦 .

Everyone is fed up.  I know we should be counting our blessings, but this is crap.  And there’s no end in sight.  Two months into the spring lockdown, you could go to Blackpool.  We’ve now been under travel restrictions for three months, and there’s no sign of things changing.  There was originally some talk of restrictions being eased by mid-February, but then it was early March, then the end of March, then Easter, and now there’s even been talk of it going on until the summer.  I feel so trapped by work, and we get so little time off, that it’s really important to me to do something special at weekends and to plan holidays, and I can’t do any of that.   People who live on their own are feeling lonely.  People who live with others are getting sick of being with them round the clock.  People are worried about money.  Kids are getting behind in their education.  And, of course, people are worried about the virus risk.  It was bad enough in the spring, but, back then, we hadn’t been under restrictions for nearly a year already, and it was still light at the end of the working day, and the weather was nice.  This is crap.

Scientists are disputing the reports that the mutant version of the virus is more deadly.  It would explain a lot if it is.  Things are bad in a lot of places, but the death rates here are just horrendous.  Political points-scorers are saying that it’s all because Boris didn’t put us into lockdown soon enough in March, but that’s rubbish.  Whatever mistakes were made in March, infection rates and death rates were way, way down by July.  Something new is going on now.

The good news is that more and more people are getting their first shots of the vaccine.  But scientists are now saying that leaving a 12 week gap between the first and second shots is no good.

Sometimes, I still can’t believe that all this is really happening.

And I am having nightmares with Snapfish.  The “livechat” is a joke: the staff barely speak a word of English, ask the set questions on their script, and can’t cope if you go off the script.  They’ve had the nerve to offer me 100 free photos as a “goodwill gesture” after ruining my order of 638 photos!  And I can’t get any further reply from them.

 

Sunday, January 24th

United 3-2 Liverpool!  Great Cup tie, and into the 5th round we go.  But when will fans ever get back to matches?

6.3 million people have now had their first dose of the vaccination.  That’s a higher percentage of the adult population than anywhere other than Israel and the UAE.  But Matt Hancock’s said that we’re a “long, long way” from easing restrictions.

The virus situation in Greater Manchester doesn’t actually seem any worse than it was in October and early November.  I may well be talking rubbish, because we don’t get detailed regional data on hospitalisations and fatalities, but that’s how it seems to me.  But it seems unlikely that restrictions will be lifted until mid-March at the earliest … and, even then, it’ll be back to the Evil Tier System.  I hope I’m wrong, but I can’t see schools reopening fully until mid-April, after the Easter holidays.

I wish different groups of people would stop demanding to be given priority for vaccination.  There is only so much vaccine available.  Clinically vulnerable people need to be vaccinated first.  Why do teaching unions seem to think that teachers should take priority over those most likely to die>

I’ve been to Clifton Country Park today.  Quieter than usual, but there was far more rule-breaking going on than there was at Heaton Park.  No huge groups, but loads of groups which clearly consisted of two or three couples plus kids.  I know there’s a risk, but I do think that way too much attention is being paid to people out for walks – the police have been lurking round some beauty spots and fining people who’ve come more than a few miles – rather than on Covid safety in workplaces.  There are some offices round here where you see around 15 cars parked outside every day.  What’s more risky, 15 people in an office together or 4 people out for a walk together?

I’ve also read two newspapers and part of a book, watched the match, watched a historical documentary, watched part of a film, written a post on my book/TV/film review blog, written some fanfic and done some house stuff.  But it still feels like a waste of a day.

WordPress thumbnails have suddenly stopped displaying on the Facebook app.  You just get a grey box with a bit of writing in it.  The pics come up as normal on the browser and mobile browser version, so it’s clearly an app issue.  Links to, say, the BBC website or the MEN website are fine.  But the issue seems to be affecting Blogspot as well as WordPress.  I appreciate that this is not the end of the world: it is hardly as if more than half a dozen people at the most ever click on to my posts through Facebook anyway, and those who do can always click on the grey box.  But it’s annoying me like mad.  ETA – ah, problem solved!  The picture needs to be enlarged.  Which is very odd, because it never used to display unless the picture was small!

However, I finally got some sense out of Snapfish.  I’ve uploaded the photos again, so we can start from scratch, and they’re going to print them for the third time, free of charge,  Fingers crosses1

The release of the new James Bond film’s been delayed again.

But sea shanties have become a thing, after a postman made a video of himself singing one, and it went viral!  Maybe we can all bond over sea shanties 🙂 .

 

 

Lockdown III Week 2, January 11th to 17th 2021 inclusive

Monday, January 11th

It has rained on and off all day.  This at least meant that there was no queue at the park café.  However, Boris has been muttering about shutting park cafes down.  FFS.  Another option mentioned has been stopping people from exercising with someone from another household.  But some people, especially women, are nervous about walking on their own.  This may be the first time ever that I’ve agreed with Sadiq Khan, but he’s said that places of worship should be closed, and he’s right.  Hancock was asked about driving to exercise, but either misunderstood or sidestepped the question.  So he didn’t say that I couldn’t go to Dunham Massey or Hollingworth Lake.  TBH, I think he sidestepped it because there’s been (quelle surprise) some political points-scoring going on over Boris being see riding a bike 7 miles from home.  FFS, have people got nothing better to worry about?  He was on a bike, on his own, not having a party!  Meanwhile, Derbyshire police have apologised to the 2 women involved in the infamous reservoir walk incident, and rescinded the fines.

Hancock did say that support bubbles definitely won’t be banned.

On a happier note, 2.3 million people have now received at least one dose of the vaccine.  7 mass vaccination centres opened across the country today.   And the rate at which infections are increasing is slowing.

Rugby union cup matches have been suspended, because of virus issues.

United v Liverpool in the 4th round of the Cup.  Oh FFS!!

Morrisons and Sainsbury’s have said that people won’t be allowed in without masks, unless they’re medically exempt.  I’ve heard that before.  It’s very awkward: supermarket staff are afraid of being accused of discriminating against people with hidden health conditions etc.  To be fair, I rarely see anyone in Tesco or M&S without a mask, these days.

I’m so desperate to be able to plan something that I’ve spent a stupid amount of time thinking about which cakes to get as treats for my birthday.  It is 6 1/2 weeks until my birthday.  And I’m supposed to be on a diet.

 

Tuesday, January 12th

Another press conference tonight, this one with Priti Patel, a senior police officer and a senior doctor.  The police guy talked a lot of sense about the problems caused by people who are holding parties or going on coach trips, rather than mithering people walking round parks.  Someone from Sky News suggested that there should be more focus on the risk within workplaces, which is, as he said, likely to be far higher than that posed by people walking in parks. Another reporter just had to bring up the Derbyshire incident yet again.  Oh, FFS.  Enough.   I think the police guy was pretty narked that people were still harping on about it.   The media are being really childish, and it’s not helping.

But then nor are the police.  On top of the Derbyshire incident, police in Wales fined a woman and her husband for driving 7 miles to visit her 94-year-old mother!   How is visiting someone in their mid-90s not classed as a compassionate visit, which is allowed?  I appreciate that these are isolated incidents, but they’re making the police look stupid.  People are now teasing each other in the park about making sure you don’t get arrested for having a bottle of water and a packet of crisps with you.

The Republic of Ireland’s now got the highest infection rate in the world, and Portugal’s having a bad time of it as well.  And two gorillas at San Diego zoo have got the virus.  And Angela Merkel’s been going on about “the British variant”.  Whilst people have – quite rightly – got annoyed with Donald Trump for talking about “the Chinese virus”, it’s apparently OK for European leaders to talk about “the British variant”.  Quelle surprise.  Oh, and there’s now another variant – which apparently emerged in Brazil.

Nearly 697,000 deaths were registered in the UK in 2020, compared with an average of nearly 606,000 each year between 2015 and 2019.  That’s a difference of 91,000.  So that’s higher than the official death toll, but, unlike in Russia, not way, way higher.  It’s very hard to judge any of these statistics.  But they’re clearly not good.

I noticed that there was a guard by the entrance to Tesco this morning, but I didn’t see anyone going in without a mask anyway.  But I go early in the morning, when it’s quiet.  Tesco, Asda and Waitrose have now joined Morrisons and Sainsbury’s in banning people without masks, other than those who are medically exempt.  But wearing masks in shops has been compulsory since July.

Later, I had to go into the office for an hour, to put some files away, collect some other files, collect some post, and print some large documents which I can’t print at home.  There were a lot of cars in the car park: people in some of the other offices in the block are clearly making no effort at all to work from home.   And so many kids are in school.  Hmm.

On a happier note, we are top of the league after a 1-0 win at Burnley!!

 

Wednesday, January 13th

It has rained nearly all day, and more snow is forecast.  This isn’t making anyone feel any better.  Also, I am so, so sick of political points-scoring.  Can’t we all try to come together at this horrendous time?  1,564 virus deaths reported today, the highest daily figure yet, and all Keir Starmer can do is bleat that what Boris said before we knew about the new variant was wrong, and that “more restrictions” are needed but without suggesting what.  There’ve also been some very distressing pictures of wholly inadequate food parcels provided to underprivileged families whilst schools were closed.  Whilst government politicians bleated that they were inadequate, and Labour politicians bleated that this showed how evil the Tories were (even though the parcels came from an independent supplier), who was the only person who actually did something useful, i.e. contacted the suppliers and told them to up their game, and then contacted the Prime Minister?  Marcus Rashford.  Marcus is a wonderful young man, but why was it left to a footballer to take action about this?

I’m hearing a lot of confused reports about vaccination.  Some local surgeries have got supplies of the vaccine, but others haven’t, and there are reports about people over 80 trying to book appointments but being told to go to centres miles away.

On a more positive note, the rate of increase of infections does seem to be falling.  It’s still worrying high in our area, but the rates of increase is certainly down.  The situation in Merseyside and Widnes is very concerning, though.

 

Thursday, January 14th

What is going on with the vaccine?  My uncle, who is 75, has had his first dose.  Obviously this is brilliant news, but my mum and dad, who are also 75, and in the same health authority but with a different GP surgery, haven’t been contacted.  Nor has a family friend, who’s 80.   Why are some surgeries moving on to the 75-79 age group when others haven’t contacted people in the 80 and over group?

It’s rained again for most of the day, apart from when it sleeted, but at least we haven’t had heavy snow like they have in Yorkshire.  Some vaccination centres have had to close because of the weather.  The Pennines seem to be protecting us: a friend who’s only about 20 miles away, but on the Yorkshire side, sent me a photo of heavy snow at her house.

Andy Murray’s got the virus!   He’s not unwell, and hopefully he’ll be OK for the Australian Open, but still.

And arrivals from the whole of South America, plus Panama, plus Portugal and the Cape Verde islands, have been banned, because of the new variant found in Brazil.  Apart from British and Irish nationals, anyone else with UK residency, and hauliers.  Why are so many people travelling, anyway?  OK, obviously hauliers have to travel, and someone’s got to man cargo flights, but there still seem to be an awful lot of people moving around.

And my diet is a disaster.  It’s not working, and I’m getting demoralised and comfort-eating.  Today has not been a good day.  People say that the virus has changed everything, but it hasn’t.  It hasn’t changed the fact that I’m chained to an office computer, it hasn’t changed the need to do housework, and it hasn’t changed the fact that I put on weight for no reason and can’t lose it.  But it’s changed the fact that I can try to cope with that by doing nice things at weekends and going on holiday.

 

Friday, January 15th

Hooray!   Mum and Dad have been called for their vaccination first doses.  And they can go very soon – tomorrow, in fact, to the local walk-in centre.  Such a relief – I was quite emotional when Mum sent the message.  Goodness knows when I’ll get done, but progress is certainly being made on vaccinating the more vulnerable groups.

And the decorator’s been, to paint the kitchen ceiling where there was the leak.  Having to see that huge brown splodge every time I went into the kitchen was doing my head in.  So glad that it’s done.

And I’m glad that it’s Friday.  Being chained to the office computer, with no prospect of being able to go out and do nice stuff at the weekend or plan a holiday, gets you down.  All travel corridors are to end from 4am on Monday … not that anyone’s going far at the moment.  Mind you, I say that, but it’s amazing how much international travel does seem to be going on.  OK, obviously someone has to transport cargo, but there seem to be a lot of other people on the move too.

The economy shrank by 2.6% in November- much less than expected, probably because of people doing Christmas shopping online, but still grim.  The overall decrease since February is 8.5%.  On a happier note, insurers who’ve tried to get out of paying out on business interruption policies have been told by the courts that lockdown definitely classes as business interruption, and the rate of infection is now falling in parts of London.  Sadly, it’s still increasing in Greater Manchester, but the rate of increase has slowed down very significantly.   The situation in other parts of the North West’s very worrying, though.

 

Saturday, January 16th

Hooray, Mum and Dad have had their first doses of the vaccine.  I walked past the vaccination centre, the local walk-in centre, on my way to M&S: there was a queue outside, and there were signs up asking locals not to use the car park nearby as so many people are expecting.  Things are certainly moving in our area: most people aged 75 and over have either had their first dose or have got an appointment to have it soon, and some people in the 70-75 age group are now being called.

The rate of infection in our borough was only up by 6% week-on-week in yesterday’s figures, and falling in some neighbouring boroughs.  And it’s falling nationwide.  But there were another 1,295 deaths today, and over 37,500 people are in hospital with the virus.  It seems unlikely that those figures will fall significantly until the beginning of February at the earliest.  Things in the Republic of Ireland are very bad.  And Portugal’s in a bad way too – is this anything to do with the mutant strains from Brazil?  Brazil itself is also in a bad way.

The strain which the authorities in France and Germany delight in referring to as “the British mutant” is officially called “Variant of Concern 202012/01”.  Doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, does it?  Or B117, which at least is a bit easier to say.

It rained first thing, but then dried up, so I got a takeaway cream tea from The Coffee Sack and took it to the park, and then had a long walk round.  There are lots of daffodil shoots around now.  So that was OK.

But the Australian Open is turning into a nightmare before it’s even started.  A total of three people on two flights to Australia, one from Los Angeles and one from Abu Dhabi, tested positive.  I thought you only had to self-isolate if someone sat very close to you on a flight tested positive, and apparently the players and their entourages did too, but they’re saying that everyone’s got to self-isolate.  So 47 players, plus their coaches, physios and anyone else travelling with them, are shut in their hotel rooms for 14 days.  They can’t practise, so will be going into a strenuous two week event in the heat with very little preparation.  And Yulia Putintseva found a mouse in her room.  On top of this, Australians wanting to return home for abroad but unable to get permission to do so are upset that tennis players have been given priority.  Oh dear.  This is not good!

 

Sunday, January 17th

We drew 0-0 at Liverpool.  Not a bad result!  So we stay top of the league … but City play tonight, and’ve got a game in hand.

Snapfish have totally mucked up my order.  I appreciate that this is not the world’s biggest crisis, but I’ll now have to wait a week and a half for the reprint, and hope that this one’s OK.  I have no idea what’s happened: they’re usually fine, but all these photos are jumbled up in completely random order, and I couldn’t get very much sense out of the “live chat” person.

Went to Hollingworth Lake this morning, then did some reading and wrote some book reviews.

The Daily Telegraph over-excitedly proclaimed that all adults would have been vaccinated by the end of June, but, as Dominic Raab said, the beginning of September’s more like that, and even that’s only for the first dose.  It’ll be early March before any restrictions are lifted, and, given how obsessed they are with reopening schools, that’ll probably be first, sending infection rates up again.  Hairdressers should so be given priority over schools 😉 .  And, even then, it’ll be back into the evil tier system, with the evil travel restrictions.

There’s now been a positive test from a third flight to Melbourne.  72 players, and all the other people on the flights, are now banned from leaving their hotel rooms.

All this business with the tennis players … travel is very, very important to me, and the thought of a second successive year without my lovely coach trips abroad is very upsetting, but I just can’t see them happening.  Even if travel corridors, i.e. no self-isolation needed at either end, are reopened, tests will probably be required.  However careful you are, until you’re vaccinated, none of us can guarantee that we haven’t got the virus, and how could you take that chance, spending a lot of money and booking some of your (in my case) very meagre annual leave allowance without being sure that you’d be able to go?  Or, even worse, doing all that, getting there, and then, like the tennis players, being told you had to stay in a hotel room for 14 days because someone else on your flight, who’d tested negative beforehand, had tested positive later?  How would that even work, if you were only there for a week?  What on earth would you do?

There’s been some talk about takeaways being unsafe, but I think people are just going for easy targets.  There have been pictures on the news of people packed into London Tube trains like sardines: services have been reduced, but a lot of people still need to travel to work on public transport.  A Sky News poll showed that 48% of people were still going into work.  OK, obviously that includes key workers, but concerns have been raised about unsafe workplaces.   Between 6th and 14th January, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) received 2,945 complaints about virus-related safety issues.  That’s a lot more likely to be causing problems than people stopping briefly to buy a cup of tea and a piece of cake.

And so endeth the first full week of Lockdown III.  Feels like it’s been months already …

 

 

Lockdown III Week 1, January 4th to 10th 2021 inclusive

Monday, January 4th

We’re actually in Tier 4 for another few hours, but I’m not doing a separate post for one day.  At midnight, after 5 days in Tier 4, we’ll be moving into Lockdown III.   So will Scotland.  On the positive side, the rollout of the Oxford vaccine started today.  And elite sport can continue, so at least we’ll still have football to watch.  And takeaways stay open – although, with schools closed, the queues in the park cafe will be about an hour long.

Otherwise:

  • Everyone to work from home unless they genuinely can’t.  I’ll be interested to see if my employers actually take any notice of this (although I personally am WFH anyway).
  • Schools, colleges and universities to close until at least mid-February (except for vulnerable kids, kids of keyworkers, and university students needing to do practicals).  The TUC have helpfully said that employers should “do the right thing” and furlough parents whose kids are off school.  They have, needless to say, not explained how small firms are supposed to manage if, say, two people out of a workforce of five are unable to work.  Nurseries stay open.  Exams will almost certainly be cancelled again.
  • You are allowed out to exercise once a day.  WTF?  They’ve said unlimited outdoor exercise in Scotland.  Hmm, we’ll see about this one.
  • You can travel “a short distance” within your “local area” to exercise.  This is not defined.  What is “a short distance”?  What is “your local area”?
  • Places of worship stay open.  Excuse me?  This is not the Middle Ages.  How come places of worship can stay open?  Are people less likely to infect each other in places of worship than in schools, shops, salons or gyms?
  • Garages doing MOTs and services can stay open.
  • Shielding is back.
  • People working at other people’s houses can still work.

This will probably all be until mid-February.  A bit more notice would have been nice – I quite appreciate that this is a very difficult and fast-moving situation, but Boris announced all this at 8pm, after saying yesterday that primary schools would be staying open!

This is totally shit.  But infection rates are going up and up – and, yes, most people don’t get ill, but the number of daily deaths remains over 400, and hospitals are running out of room.

We keep hearing about “the race between the virus and the vaccine”.  Is there no way we can speed the vaccination programme up?  Commandeer labs and factories to produce more of it?  Presumably it’s not that easy, or it’d be being done.

Ugh.  9 1/2 months, and we’re nearly back to square 1 – except with football, takeaways and public toilets.

I hate this bloody virus.

 

Tuesday, January 5th

Everybody’s at sixes and sevens today.  Businesses and the live music industry are saying that they need a definite date for reopening, but it’s just not possible for anyone to know when that’s likely to be.   And what’s going to happen with school exams?  Mocks are usually done in January, so schools won’t even have mock results to go off.

Boris has been on TV again, talking about vaccines – which he pronounces (vac-SEENS).  Israel has vaccinated 10% of its population already.  In actual numbers, that’s around 1.3 million, which is around the same as us, with far fewer personnel and facilities.  Why can’t we do things that quickly?  OK, we’re doing a lot better than most countries – France, as of 30th December, had vaccinated a grand total of 138 people – but why can’t all countries move as quickly as Israel has very admirably done?  It’s partly due to vaccine shortages, but not entirely.

Rishi Sunak, who’s probably tearing his hair out, has announced more grants for businesses, but more’s going to be needed … but where’s the money going to come from?

Like a lot of people round here, I was very annoyed when we were put back into Tier 3 at the beginning of December, but at that point we didn’t know about the new variant and, as things have turned out, it did us a favour.  Infection rates in the “City of Liverpool region”, which was still in Tier 2 until a few days ago, are now way higher than they are in Greater Manchester … although rates here are rising very quickly now.  Over 60,000 new cases were recorded nationwide today, and 830 deaths.  OK, Tuesday’s figures do tend to be bad because of the lag over the weekend, plus yesterday was a Bank Holiday in Scotland, but it’s still pretty grim.

That miserable git Chris Whitty’s just said that restrictions might be reintroduced next winter.

Dunham lights are cancelled 😦 .  I only missed out by a few days with my original booking, and now I’ve missed out by a few days again.  OK, it;s hardly the world’s biggest crisis, but bleurgh.  But the estate is staying open.

The cafes in Heaton Park are open as before, although you now have to order at the hatch, rather than inside, at the lakeside cafe.  The queue thankfully wasn’t that long, but I noticed that the playground was packed out.

I took the decorations down whilst watching Boris’s press conference.  A few people’ve said that they’re going to leave them up until Candlemas, like the Queen does, this year, because they make things look cheerful, but I’m not sure than I need to be looking at Christmas decorations any later than Twelfth Night.

 

Wednesday, January 6th

“Clap for Carers” is coming back, renamed “Clap for Heroes”.  Let’s hope that it brings some feeling of unity, and isn’t, as sadly I fear it may be, hijacked by political point-scorers.

Over 1,000 deaths today.  1,041.  And 62,322 infections.

Boris has said that lockdown will be eased “gradually” … in late February and March,  But then it’s back to the godforsaken tier system.  I was hoping we’d seen the back of that, with its evil travel restrictions.

Meanwhile, things in Los Angeles County are now, sadly, so bad that paramedics have been told that anyone who seems unlikely to recover shouldn’t even be taken to hospital.  In the middle of this, a load of Donald Trump fanatics are holding a huge demo in Washington.  Have people got no sense?!

Carabao Cup semi against City tonight.  Hoping for a brilliant match and a win.  I said “hoping”!  Meanwhile, Chorley’s excitement about playing Wayne Rooney’s Derby in the Cup has rather gone down the toilet: Rooney and all his senior players are self-isolating due to a virus outbreak.

GCSEs and A-levels in Northern Ireland have been cancelled.  Teachers are to assess grades in England, and presumably in Northern Ireland too.   Meanwhile, amid concerns about kids having problems accessing stuff online, the BBC are to show a lot of curriculum-based programmes.  Like old times!

 

Later – oh FFS.  FOUR semi-final defeats in 12 months.  And losing to City is always horrible.  United 0 – 2 City.  Bah.

Absolutely appalling scenes from Washington DC.  I cannot believe that this happening in the United States of America.  It’s like a bad Sergei Eisenstein film, but with a pandemic thrown in.  The pro-Trump mob have actually stormed Congress.  Legislators had to be evacuated through secret tunnels.  Boris and other international leaders have condemned what’s going on, but all Trump could manage was to tell people to “go home” – and then keep insisting that he had really won the election.  I’m very saddened by what we’re seeing.

 

Thursday, January 7th …. Christmas Day in Russia etc

As I’d feared, Clap for Heroes not only fell a bit flat – perhaps inevitable, given that there’s snow and ice on the ground and it’s pitch black long before 8 o’clock – but was hijacked by spiteful political points-scorers.  Well, some medical staff said that they’d rather people focused on trying to reduce their chances of contracting the virus, which was obviously fair enough, but there was no reason not to do that and clap as well … but the spiteful brigade said that everything under the sun was the government’s fault, that Clapping for Heroes would be encouraging spending cuts (no, me neither), and directed abuse and even threats at the kind woman who came up with the idea.  Says it all, doesn’t it?  Someone tries to show appreciation for other people’s work and to bring communities together, and they end up being threatened by political points-scorers.  How awful.  You’d think that events in America would have shown people the dangers of divisive talk and behaviour, but apparently not.

Despite the very worrying rises in virus cases, hospitalisations and deaths, in the UK and in many other cases, the pandemic has been briefly pushed out of the headlines by the absolutely appalling scenes in Washington yesterday.  Four people died.   Offices were ransacked.  People grabbed everything from letters to personal photographs.  The pictures from inside the Capitol building look as if an invading army’s run through the place.  It’s very, very disturbing.

You might think that this would show people in other countries just how dangerous nastiness and divisive rhetoric can be.  Sadly not.  The sniping, the whingeing, the criticism, the political points-scoring and, in some cases, the sheer hatred on social media, and in some parts of the media – notably the Guardian – just goes on and on.  Could we please, please, stop this, and pull together?

Villa have now got the virus!  So their Cup match against Liverpool tomorrow is in doubt.  This is all getting a bit chaotic.

More snow.  Not a lot, but it’s stuck.

Booked my car in for its MOT and service … and received an e-mail saying that I should drive to the garage with the heating off and the windows open, for “ventilation”.  Not if it’s snowing, I won’t be …

National Express have cancelled all their services.

Schools in Wales are to stay shut until February half-term.

And I had a dental appointment this morning.  Even though there’s a large waiting room, and a foyer, they made people wait outside in the ice and the freezing fog “due to covid safety protocols”!

 

Friday, January 8th

Monday – lost a pound.
Tuesday – stayed the same.
Wednesday – put a pound on.
Thursday – put a pound on.
4 days of sticking to my diet programme and walking several miles every day, and I’ve put a pound ON.  I feel like shit.

OK, I am totally selfish and self-obsessed, and should be focusing on the very sad news that 1,325 deaths with coronavirus were reported today.  But I just wanted a moan.

Derbyshire police have fined two women £200 each for driving five miles to go for a walk round a reservoir.  Seriously.  And told them that they shouldn’t have taken a “picnic” – takeaway hot drinks – with them.  I have never heard anything so stupid.  This sort of thing just does not help.  It annoys people, and makes the police look like a joke.

You now cannot enter the UK unless you’ve had a negative virus test within 48 hours.  Which is very sensible and, if we and every other country had had that rule in February/March, maybe this nightmare would never have happened.  But, as it’s not always easy to get a test, it puts the kibosh on foreign travel … not that we’re allowed to go anywhere at the moment anyway, or even allowed in to a lot of places.

Lots of arguments going on about schools.  People moaned that schools were open.  Schools are now closed.   But they’re open for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.  Teachers are moaning that there are too many kids in school.  Parents are moaning that they’ve been told that their child cannot go into school as there are too many kids there already, but that they think their kid should be entitled to a place.  I’m not really having a go at anyone: it’s an impossible situation.  But I wish people would try to think of solutions, rather than just moaning.   And some people push their luck.  If one parent is a key worker but the other parent isn’t, it’s unfair to take up places which could go to the children of single parents who are key workers or a couple who are both key workers.

And the list of key workers doesn’t include, for example, plumbers or boiler engineers, but they’re essential as far as I’m concerned.

It’s very difficult.  And a lot of offices round here are open – unless they all need about half a dozen people to nip in to collect the post, and they all just happened to be there just as I walked past.  Again, it’s very difficult.  Some people find it very hard to work at home, due to lack of space, and noise from kids/pets.

But the figures for deaths, hospitalisations and infections are horrendous.  We are not, at present, as badly off as some other parts of the country, but it’s bad everywhere.

Events further and further ahead are being cancelled.  There’s talk of the local elections due to be held (a year late) in May being postponed.  Royal garden parties due to be held in the summer have been cancelled, and there’s talk of cancelling the summer music festivals.

Some good news – the Moderna vaccine’s been approved for use here, and two drugs with unpronounceable names have been found to help treat people who are seriously ill.

 

Saturday, January 9th

Hooray, we beat Watford 1-0 to move into the 4th round of the Cup.  Chorley at home, please!

No rain or snow today, thankfully.  Went for a long walk in the park – with a takeaway scone and jam and cream from The Coffee Sack.  I’ve given up on the park cafes.  They don’t do scones anyway, but, even apart from that, they’re just too slow.  Even when they’re quiet, the waits for drinks are ridiculous.  The park was quite busy, but it was only in the main area by the lake and the playground that there were a lot of people (and, even worse, a lot of horrible barking dogs).  Other areas were quieter, which was nice.  Pretty bleak at this time of year, though.

Later, I walked to Iceland (you can’t get Slimming World stuff at Tesco).  Plenty of people around.  No-one was breaking any rules: most people were waiting for takeaways.

The Queen and Prince Philip have received their first vaccination doses, which is good news – and will hopefully reassure anyone feeling nervous.  The vast majority of people can’t wait to be vaccinated but, with a few idiots spreading silly rumours, there are bound to be a few nerves.

The police, who should be breaking up large gatherings, are annoying people by behaving like idiots.  The story of the two women were surrounded, read their rights and fined for driving a few miles to walk round a reservoir has gone viral.  Police in Shropshire have issued a warning that leaving your house to, er, throw snowballs outside your house is “not a valid reason for leaving home”.  And 6 people were fined for holding a memorial to the Birmingham pub bombing victims.  The police have asked for “greater clarity” about the rules.  Try using a bit of common sense, eh.

I’m never sure how much the statistics from all this mean.  For example, the excess number of deaths in Russia since the pandemic began is way, way more than the official number of deaths from the virus.  Here, some of the people in the official death toll will have died for reasons that had nothing to do with Covid, but within 28 days of a positive test, whereas others will have died for reasons related to Covid but won’t be “counted” as they hadn’t had a positive test within 28 days.  But the “official” death toll is now over 80,000.  Of the 10 areas in England with the highest death rates, 4 are in the North West, which is very, very upsetting.  2 are in Yorkshire, 1 is E Staffs, and 1 (the highest) is Folkestone and Hythe.

Some current infection rates per 100,000 (again, these figures may mean anything or nothing).  Of 315 areas in England, 314 saw a rise this week.  I think this is for the week to yesterday:

Greater Manchester – Wigan 478, Bury 426, central Manchester 422, Bolton 344
Rest of NW – Halton 1,173, Carlisle 1,134, Burnley 967, central Liverpool 859, Cheshire W/Chester 621, Barrow 578, S Lakes 336, Blackpool 320

Yorks and NE – Hartlepool 838, York 626, Harrogate 464, Hull 341, Sheffield 290, Bradford 283, Newcastle 281
Midlands – Walsall 828, Birmingham 739, Derby 633, Nottingham 451, Shropshire 417, N Lincs 235

London and SE – Barking & Dagenham 1,687, Havering 1,399, Slough 1,173, Barnet 1,035, Windsor and Maidenhead 727
E Anglia – Norwich 530, Peterborough 520
South/South West – Southampton 709, Swindon 642, Bristol 467, Cornwall and Scilly Isles 367. West Devon 147

 

So, although we’ve come a depressingly long way from the days when anything over 20 was considered worrying, we’re looking at very different figures in different areas.

 

Sunday, January 10th

Could we move on from the incident with the Derbyshire police, please?  Derbyshire police have said that they’ve reviewed their procedures.  We all screw up sometimes.   Let it go now.  But no – the media can’t do that.  They’ve really latched on to this story.   Priti Patel and Matt Hancock have both been asked for their views on it.  Whilst they probably both think that the police showed a complete lack of common sense, they can’t be seen to criticise the police for clamping down over lockdown, so they’ve both said that they support the police.  So now there is a huge fuss going on about what you can and can’t do, and why most of the people who’ve staged anti-lockdown protests in London and Bournemouth were just told to go home when two women innocently going for a walk a few miles from home were each fined £200.

Meanwhile, whilst people in England are moaning that there are too many kids in school under the exemption for children of key workers, the Welsh authorities have used a different definition of “key workers” … so now people are moaning that this is ridiculous because they can’t work unless their kids are in school.

And some whingeing Remoaner journalist on Sky News last night insisted that people are going out “because of Dominic Cummings”.  Oh FFS.  What, everyone who goes for a stroll in the park, walks to their local cafe for a takeaway cake or goes into the office because their kids keep screaming during Zoom meetings is doing so because Dominic Cummings drove to Barnard Castle eight months ago?  I’ve never heard such rubbish.

This is ridiculous.  Could everyone please stop acting like five-year-olds, and use a bit of common sense?  And focus on speeding up the vaccination programme.  Frustrated GPs, pharmacists and even dentists are saying that they could vaccinate hundreds of people per week but can’t get the doses or, in some cases, the authorisation.  It’s not clear whether the problem is supply, distribution, red tape or all three.  We’re now being told that every adult will have been offered the vaccination “by the autumn”.  Depending on whether you take “by” to mean “before” (which it probably should) or “during” (which it probably does), this could mean late November.  Surely there must be a way of doing it more quickly?

Due to all the carry-on over the women in Derbyshire, I got a bit stressed about going to Dunham Massey this morning, even though I don’t see that I’m breaking any rules by driving within Greater Manchester, in my own car, to exercise alone in a place where numbers will be restricted.  When this week’s tickets were released, I was expecting to go to the lights show tonight, so I hadn’t booked tickets for during the day.  By the time things changed, the only ticket I could get was for 9 o’clock.  So I thought I’d be the only person on the M60 at half 8, and had half-convinced myself I’d be pulled over to ask where I was going.  No.  There were plenty of cars around, even at half 8 on a Sunday morning.   But I haven’t seen anyone doing anything they shouldn’t … other than a few groups of 3 or 4 people clearly not from the same household.

Not only were there no scones, there were no cakes and no hot food.  I’ve noticed that other cafes seem to’ve got a lot of food left over – Costa Coffee had reduced stuff to half-price to try to shift it.  It’s all a muddled circle – they’re not offering nice cakes, because cakes don’t keep and they can’t be sure how many they’ll sell , but people aren’t as keen to buy things like pre-packed biscuits.

The daffodils are coming.  No sign of them in Heaton Park yet, but Dunham have already got a few out, and there are loads of shoots.  Some snowdrops are out too.

 

I’ve got a load of photos to sort out, a load of books to read, a load of films in my Sky Planner and a load more films in my Amazon Prime watchlist.  Have I got through any of them?  Er, not really …

I think Chris Whitty would like to put us all under house arrest until the end of March.  I do understand that this is a huge crisis.  Everyone does.  But I also understand that there’s going to be a huge mental health crisis if restrictions are tightened much more.

This is just a nightmare.  Sometimes, if I’ve got engrossed in a book or a film, I actually forget about it.  Then it hits me, and, for a few moments, I can’t actually believe that it’s real.

But it is.

Tier 4, Week 1 – December 31st 2020 to January 3rd 2021, inclusive

New Year’s Eve, Thursday, December 31st

Starting on a new post on New Year’s Eve is very weird, but here we are, day 1 in Tier 4.  Why are electronics/IT/communications shops classed as “non-essential”?  Surely they’re absolutely essential, especially at the moment!

It snowed this morning.  However, most of the snow had melted by 10 o’clock.  I went for a walk in the park, and there were some rather disappointed-looking kids with sledges.  We get so little time off work that I usually try so hard to do something exciting on every day off, but there just isn’t anything exciting to do at the moment!  Oh well, at least, for once, I won’t be feeling like a saddo for spending New Year’s Eve sat in on my own, watching Jools Holland, whilst everyone else is out partying … because everyone else will be stuck in with Jools Holland as well!

Tommy Docherty’s died.  He was 92 and’d been ill for a while, but it’s a sad end to the year.

Andy Burnham says that 25% of virus cases in Greater Manchester are now due to the mutant strain.  That’s not good.

But, on a happier note, Dunham lights is going ahead … which surprises me, but is good news!

Well, goodbye 2020, and here’s to 2021.  Let’s just hope it’s a better year than this one’s been!

 

New Year’s Day, Friday, January 1st

Happy New Year!   A bit of snow fell overnight, but not much.  However, the south side of town is still pretty snowy from the snow that fell earlier in the week, and Dunham Massey was like a winter wonderland this morning – it really was pretty.

Later, I went for another walk, just locally.  Everyone is so bored.  You go for a walk.  You waste money on a takeaway drink and a fattening cake.  You come home.   At least United and Villa are on TV tonight.

I would give a great deal to go for a walk somewhere devoid of horrible barking dogs.  Does it not occur to people that letting their odious mutts disturb everyone for miles around – the volume at which some dogs bark really is astounding – isn’t very fair?  I don’t know what I’m more sick of, barking dogs, or people who, after 4 1/2 years, still refuse to accept the result of the Brexit referendum.  But at least you can scroll down or change channels to get away from the “Ooh, I’ve changed my Facebook profile photo to one of the EU flag” brigade.  There is no escape from the dogs!!  OK, moan over.

It’s been decided to focus on giving as many people as possible one dose of vaccine, rather than vulnerable groups two doses.

Opinion is split as to whether or not schools should be closed.   Some people are questioning why London, again, is being treated differently to other areas, but the situation in London and parts of the Home Counties really is far worse than it is here.  A frightening number of people in my sister’s community have got the virus, and that’s not even one of the worst-affected areas of London.  And I get the sense that people there are panicking: two friends have said that they’re thinking of cancelling mammogram appointments because they’re nervous of going near hospitals.  It’s not like that here.  People are concerned, but not panicking.

There’s also serious concern about businesses.  The whole thing’s such a nightmare.  “Experts” are saying that we need to vaccinate two million people a week, but the vaccine just can’t be produced that quickly.   If only it could!

Later – hooray!!  We beat Villa 2-1, and are now level on points with Liverpool at the top of the table!!

And Last Christmas is number 1!   After 36 years.  I gave up following the charts about 25 years ago, but that’s made me smile.

All primary schools in London will now stay closed, not just those in certain boroughs.  Make your mind up.  Why not say that in the first place?

 

Saturday, January 2nd

It was minus 3 C this morning, but bright and sunny.  I decided to walk round some different parts of Heaton Park for a change, and that was really nice.  However, it snowed heavily for about an hour in the afternoon, and the wretched stuff is all over the road and not likely to melt tonight.  It’s OK once you get to the main road, but, especially if you’re a nervous driver and have inconsiderate neighbours who park on the road, that’s easier said than done!

City’ve had no more positive virus tests, and their match against Chelsea tomorrow is going ahead, but Fulham had to call off their match at Burnley, and several lower league matches are also off.

Ryanair are running a “Jab and Go” advertising campaign.  “Covid vaccines are coming.”  Lots of pictures of grinning people on the beach or diving into swimming pools.  “So you can just Jab and Go!”  I cannot wait to go on holiday, but those adverts are in such poor taste that you just have to laugh!

I’ve put in a claim for tax relief for working from home.  It’s £1.20 per week, which just about covers the cost of milk and teabags, and doesn’t touch the cost of heating, lighting, phone calls, water etc, but, hey, owt’s better than nowt.  I’d love to know how many employers have offered to reimburse people and how many are just pocketing the amount they’ve saved.

I do wish people would work together and stop trying to score political points.   Teaching unions were a nightmare earlier in the year, and are at it again.  The National Association of Head Teachers is taking legal action against the Department of Education, and the main teachers’ union is threatening to advise its members to refuse to go to work.  As for that idiot Sadiq Khan, all he cares about is having a go at the Government.  There’s certainly a growing feeling that schools need to close – admittedly very easy for me to say when I’m neither a teenager at a crucial stage in their education nor a working parent with young children – but this hostile attitude isn’t helping anyone.

Excellent episode of Casualty tonight – a “coronavirus special”, set during the first lockdown.  Some of it, admittedly, was the BBC trying to score political points, but most of it was very powerful, and I actually ended up in tears when a longstanding character died of the virus at the end.  Yes, I know that it’s only a TV programme, and that the actor is alive and well although probably rather fed up about losing his job, but he represents real people.

 

Moan coming up:

As bad as the first lockdown was, after 10 weeks of it I was able to go to Blackpool and eat fish and chips and ice cream on the beach.  It’s now around the same length of time since we were put under travel restrictions in October, and things are only getting worse.  And are expected to get worse yet.  A few sanctimonious people are saying that they’re prepared to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, but most people, whilst genuinely concerned about the very serious situation, are fed up and whingeing and moaning.  It’s the feeling of being trapped.  It’s the horrendous boredom.  Weirdly, it’s the guilt – I’ve got a very Victorian mentality that says that I should be doing something all the time, but there’s nothing to do.   Yeah, I know, I could try to learn Japanese, but I haven’t got the heart for it when I’ve got no idea whether my rearranged holiday will go ahead or not.  I’d volunteer to do something to help in the community, but I can’t because I’ll be chained to the office laptop again from Monday.

And we want to see our relatives and friends.  People with long-term partners with whom they don’t live aren’t supposed to see them unless it’s for a walk in the park.  Parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, siblings, aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews, cousins and close friends aren’t supposed to see each other at all if they don’t live in the same area.

Those sanctimonious people may be very virtuous, but they’re also rather annoying!   This is crap.  In 20 years’ time, maybe we’ll all say what jolly good fun it was, like people did about spending the night in air raid shelters but, right now, sanctimonious people are annoying!

 

Sunday, January 3rd

The political points-scoring going on over the schools issue is sickening.  This is a time of severe national and international crisis – how is all this spite and venom and divisiveness helping anyone, least of all children?  How exactly are social media posts saying things like “Tory incompetence is killing teachers” supposed to help?   Good job these vile groups weren’t around during the war, isn’t it?  Do any of them actually care about what’s best for children, parents, teachers and local communities?  No, they do not.  Unfortunately, these groups dominate teaching unions, which isn’t very good for anyone.  Interesting article in today’s MEN about a woman from Bolton who lost her job due to school closures.  I fear that a lot more people will be in the same position if schools close indefinitely but workplaces don’t.  But I don’t see how we’re to get infection rates down if schools stay open.

The infection rate across Greater Manchester as a whole is now 278, up 36% on last week.  The rate, and the rate of increase, varies quite a bit between boroughs, but the general picture is very worrying.  Cases are increasing more rapidly than the national average for the first time since October – although still well below the national average rate of 509.  Some parts of the SE are well over 1,000.   And parts of Merseyside are higher than any part of Greater Manchester, but remain in Tier 3.  And Burnley is 562.  Is there some sort of overspill from Burnley and Rossendale into Bury?  Probably not, actually, because then it’d be affecting Rochdale too, and Rochdale isn’t as bad.  Carlisle’s over 500, as well.

The acting mayor of Liverpool (the mayor being off due to corruption investigations) has called for a lockdown.  So, now, has Keir Starmer.  Could people please define “lockdown”?  Because if they mean saying that you can’t go out for a walk but you can go and spend all day in a non-essential office or factory with a load of other people, then it’ll do more harm than good.  If they mean closing workplaces but ensuring that anyone who cannot work from home gets furloughed rather than laid off, it may well be an idea.

I broke bounds by about a mile today, and went to Styal.  There isn’t even a sign to say that you’ve crossed from Manchester into Wilmslow: if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t.  I am not saying that this was a good thing to do, but everyone is breaking bits of rules – lots of groups which were clearly two households or more – and I’d pre-booked it before we all got moved into Tier 4, and I was in the open air, away from other people, and the boundaries don’t make much sense anyway.  It was really lovely there.  Strangely, though, the tea rooms both there and at Dunham were very quiet, even though there were plenty of people around.  Nice for me, because they can be horrendously slow and I don’t like waiting in long queues, but very strange.  Takeaway places in Heaton Park and Hollingworth Lake are always busy.  Is this some kind of north-south divide thing?!  There were scones there, hooray!

 

 

Back to being chained to the office computer tomorrow … which I wouldn’t mind if they’d so much as bothered to send round an e-mail wishing people all the best for Christmas and the New Year.  Bah.  The next Bank Holiday is Good Friday, which is April 2nd.  Where will things be at by then?

Tier 3 Plus, Week 4 … well, half a week – December 28th to 30th 2020 inclusive

Monday, December 28th (Bank Holiday, as Boxing Day fell on a Saturday)

City’s match tonight’s been called off, after a number of their players tested positive.  That’s a worrying development.

On top of everything else, there’s been heavy snow in some areas, although, thankfully, not here.

Rates here continue to rise, with the average across Greater Manchester now (as of yesterday) just under 200.  That’s obviously very worrying, but, having been at or near the top of the infection rate charts for months, the situation here at the moment is (touch wood!) not that bad compared to that in other areas.  The rate in Brentwood is now 1,442, with some other parts of Essex and parts of London not far behind.

We’re being told that the big increase in cases in Trafford and Stockport is due not to the mutant virus but to “increased social mixing”.  Probably in pubs and restaurants in Cheshire East, before it was moved into Tier 3!

The situation in neighbouring areas is worsening.  Both Cheshire districts are now well over 200, Warrington’s 298, and Liverpool’s 200.  To the north, Pendle’s on 427 and Burnley’s on 488.  And the worst rate in the North is now in, of all places, Eden (Penrith and Ullswater).  496.  South Lakeland’s not nearly as bad, but even they’re up to 188.

On a happier note, it’s hoped that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine could be ready to go soon.  It doesn’t have to be stored at -80 degrees C, so should be a lot easier to administer quickly.

Despite all the goings-on, I’ve had a nice day: I managed to get a reduced rate spa day at the Norton Grange in Rochdale.  They’d tried really hard to keep things Covid-secure, although, unfortunately, some idiots were completely ignoring the signs about how many people should be in each area at once.  I had great intentions about going in the gym, and I did go in briefly, but I spent most of my time in the pool and the jacuzzi, and then had a facial and a back massage.  Really nice takeaway afternoon tea!  I am so fat …

 

Tuesday, December 29th

I was a bit stressed when I looked out this morning and it was snowing: the road up to our estate is a nightmare in the snow, and I had to get to Tesco and M&S!  However, it wasn’t too bad here, and it wasn’t sticking on the roads.  But at Tatton Park, where I’d planned to go anyway, there was loads and loads of snow!  The roads were OK, although the car park was a bit tricky (considering that they charge people to park there, they really should have cleared it), and it was all really good fun, with people throwing snowballs and building snowmen, and a few kids on sledges.

I suppose it was kind of breaking bounds, seeing as it’s in Cheshire East rather than Greater Manchester, but I’d still class it as local, and we’re all in Tier 3 now anyway.  This whole tier system is so bonkers.  Parts of Wigan are classed as West Lancashire, and parts of Rochdale are classed as Rossendale.  West Lancashire and Rossendale, despite not having particularly high infection rates (by current standards), may be moved into Tier 4 at the end of the week, because of the issues in Burnley, Pendle and Hyndburn.  Or the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs may be moved too.  Or the whole country may be moved.   I can’t see the Lake District staying in Tier 2, the way things are going.  There are issues in parts of Merseyside and North Yorkshire too.  Oh, how I miss the Lakes!  Not that I ever go there in December anyway, but I hate the feeling that I haven’t even got the option.  Although some people are merrily heading off all over the place, even staying overnight.  A tiny minority of people, admittedly, but some.

It’s weird – we’ve been in the eye of the storm for so long, and now we’re not.  At the beginning, I was looking at everything on a national level, but, thanks to government policy, I’ve been looking at it from a local level since the end of July.  But the national picture is horrendous.  Over 53,000 new infections today – compared to around 13,000 per day a month ago, although more people are being tested now.  Some hospitals in Wales and South East England are struggling to cope.  I don’t know what’s going on with the Nightingale Hospitals – are they not being used because there aren’t enough people to staff them?

Indian Wells, one of my favourite tournaments of the year, won’t take place in March, because the situation in California is so bad 😦 .

The first person to get the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine got her second dose today.   Any hope that we could live with the virus has gone now.  We’ve just got to get people vaccinated.

We beat Wolves 1-0 – injury time goal from Rashford.  Yay!!  A lot of lower league matches were off, though – some due to the weather, but some due to positive virus tests.  Not sure if our Carabao Cup semi’ll be going ahead, because of the situation with City.

 

Wednesday, December 30th

Oh shit, double shit and treble shit.  Hancock has shoved us into Tier 4.  I did not see that coming – it was expected that parts of East Lancashire, Hartlepool and maybe Birmingham would move, but he’s dumped a whole load of additional areas too.  Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Warrington and Cheshire.  Cumbria, going straight from Tier 2 to Tier 4.  Leics, Lincs, Derbys, Notts, Northants, the entire West Midlands/Warks/ Staffs/Black Country area, the entire North East, Gloucs, Swindon, most of Somerset, parts of Dorset, the Isle of Wight and the New Forest.  Merseyside moves into Tier 3, but not Tier 4 even though its infection rates are similar to ours.  South, West and East Yorks stay in Tier 3, but North Yorks moves from Tier 2 to Tier 3, as do Rutland, Shropshire, the rest of Somerset, the rest of Dorset, the rest of Wiltshire, Herefordshire and Worcs.

Shit shit shit.  Our rates aren’t even that high.  Dunham lights is off.  Hairdressers close.  Yes, I know I sound whiney and self-obsessed, but there’s no way they’d shut down the South like this if rates were high in the North.

The nationwide picture is awful, though.  Over 50,000 new infections again.  And 981 deaths – although that probably includes deaths from over the Christmas period, recorded late.

Despite, all this, schools are to stay open, although secondary schools will return later than planned, and primary schools will close in “a small number of areas”.  “A small number of areas” has turned out to be most of London, and parts of Essex, Kent and Herts.   This includes my younger nephew’s primary school.  His comment was that he was glad he’d be getting a break from school dinners.

Amid all this bad news, some good news – the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine’s been licensed for use in the UK.  As it only has to be stored at normal fridge temperature, this will hopefully speed up the vaccination programme quite a bit.

Been for a walk round Hollingworth Lake.  In the slush and fog.

I’m pleased to say that The Olive and Pickle was so busy that it’d had to send out for extra supplies.  As I can’t be bothered getting into an argument, I’m ignoring a couple of very rude people who said on one of my Facebook posts that people shouldn’t be going for takeaways – which is about the only thing people’ve got left to do, and which is keeping eating places in business and protecting jobs – because it generates waste.  Some people are so bloody sanctimonious and irritating.  And it’s always the people whose finances aren’t affected!!  Gah.

Oh poo.  We really didn’t expect this.  Nor did most of the other areas affected.  What a nightmare.

Fulham v Spurs off due to a virus outbreak at Fulham.

 

Tier 3 Plus, Week 3, December 21st to 27th 2020 inclusive

Monday, December 21st

Ring Out Ye Solstice Bells … well, let’s hope that the light returns soon, because things are pretty grim at the moment.  I just cannot take in what is happening.  Over 40 countries have now imposed travel bans on us – some for 48 hours, some for a month, some indefinitely.  So much for thinking that I might get a long weekend in Italy over Easter!   But the big problem we’ve got is that this also applies to freight.  The Port of Dover is currently closed.  Yes, closed.  In peacetime.  There are lorries backed up all over Kent.  Sainsbury’s unhelpfully tweeted that they were going to run out of lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli if this went on much longer.  Whilst I’m sure we can all manage without lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli for a few days, this has sparked a bit of panic-buying.  I haven’t bought any more than I would have done anyway, but I did decide to go to Tesco and M&S today rather than tomorrow, and it was certainly far busier than it normally is at 8 o’clock in the morning.  OK, it’s Christmas week, but even so.

I can’t believe I’ve been sad enough to type all this out, but I thought that a sample of regional infection rates per 100,000, from last week to this week, would be interesting.  Incidentally, anyone visiting Greater Manchester or the West Midlands Conurbation from Tier 4 (which they shouldn’t be doing anyway) or Wales has been told to self-isolate for 10 days.  So, let’s have a look:

Thurrock, Essex – up from 387 to 1,056.
Havering, London – up from 514 to 1,022.
Rochford, Essex – up from 267 to 864.
Hastings, Sussex – up from 371 to 799.
Canterbury, Kent- up from 475 to 615.
Barnet, London – up from 197 to 417.
Lincoln – down from 491 to 417.
Stoke, Staffs – up from 298 to 339.
Hyndburn (the Accrington area), Lancs – up from 170 to 283.  Burnley, worryingly, is up to 412.
Rotherham, South Yorks- up from 207 to 249 – but Sheffield is only 157.
Birmingham – up from 202 to 247.
Eden, Cumbria – up from 77 to 229.  That’s not good.  And South Lakeland’s up to 175.
Hull, E Yorks – up from 190 to 217.
Bury – down from 213 to 190.
Manchester centre – down from 178 to 171.
Blackpool – up from 154 to 158.
Leeds – up from 137 to 142.
Liverpool – up from 92 to 125.
Stockport- up from 112 to 113.
Bath/N E Somerset – up from 96 to 103.
Dorset – up from 45 to 67.

Sadly, I think that this new version of the virus is probably already spreading across the country and probably across Europe too, but we can certainly see a big regional divide at the moment.  I’m concerned about East Lancs, though, especially Burnley.

Just look how much the rates have gone up by a week in parts of the South East.  Hospitals are coping at the moment, but … well, it’s a very worrying situation. What’s going to happen with schools, with businesses, with everything?  Earlier this year, one of the newspapers was talking about snakes and ladders – well, we have gone right down a very big snake.  These bloody restrictions could be in place for months – and we could all be in Tier 4 before long.  I just can’t quite take it all in.

Why did the bloody virus have to mutate in Kent (and it does seem to’ve happened in Kent)?

“Britain stands alone.”

I really am struggling to take this in.

 

Tuesday, December 22nd

Oh no!  A kid in my younger nephew’s class has tested positive for the virus.  Let’s hope that none of the other kids have got it – he’s not one of my younger nephew’s particular friends, so they haven’t had much contact.  But the whole class has now got to self-isolate.   The Christmas visit to Manchester’s already off, and now the poor kid isn’t even supposed to leave the house.  Talk about “The Worst Noel”, “I’m dreaming of a shite Christmas” and all the other bad puns going round.

Rates in our borough are actually falling, now that these outbreaks in care homes thankfully seem to be under control, but rates across Greater Manchester as a whole were up by 5% in the week to yesterday.  That’s not much compared to an increase of 62% across England as a whole, and far more than that in parts of the SE, but it’s obviously not good.  And, with rates having almost trebled in a week in the Northern Lake District, there are fears that the mutant strain’s on the loose there.

And don’t tell me that the mutant strain’s only in the UK.  Infection rates in the Netherlands have risen by 42% in a week.   If that isn’t due to the mutant strain, then … well, I’m a Dutchman.   Meanwhile, over 50 countries have now imposed travel bans on us.  But America hasn’t.

The situation in Dover is appalling.  Surely some sort of solution can be found?  These poor lorry drivers have spent two nights sleeping in their vehicles.  Toilet facilities and washing facilities are limited.  No-one even seems to be doing much to make sure that they’ve got enough to eat and drink.  And these drivers are from all over Europe, wanting to get home for Christmas.  It’s like a very bad Hollywood film.   Not to mention the fact that good food’s going to go off, at a time when a lot of people are relying on food banks anyway.

The whole of mainland Scotland’s going into Tier 4 level restrictions from Boxing Day, and restaurants and hairdressing salons in the Republic of Ireland are to close from Christmas Eve.

And Tesco have introduced limits on toilet roll purchases.  FFS!  Toilet roll does not come from France.  A lot of French toilets don’t even provide paper (don’t get me started on that subject).  30% of the UK’s toilet rolls come from Trafford Park!

Bloody hellfire.  I just don’t know what to say.

 

Wednesday, December 23rd

Bloody hell.  Little more than a fortnight ago, we thought that the worst was over.  Infection rates in Greater Manchester were plummeting, and we were pretty sure that we’d be in Tier 2 by Christmas.  Now, it looks as if the whole country could be heading into lockdown.  Infection rates across the 10 boroughs were up by 8% in the week to yesterday.  That’s not alarming, but they were still falling three days ago, so it’s a big change.  Just north of here, rates are up by 89% in Hyndburn (89%!), 46% in Burnley and 42% in Pendle.  These places are only 20 to 30 miles away.  Short of blocking up the M66, you have to fear the worst.

The whole of Cheshire’s going into Tier 3 on Boxing Day, as is Warrington.  But not Merseyside, where Hancock’s family live.  Bristol’s going back into Tier 3 after a week!  In fact, the whole of Gloucestershire and Somerset, other than Bath/NE Somerset,’ll be in Tier 3, as will Northants, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, and the New Forest.  The rest of Hants goes into Tier 4, along with the rest of Sussex, Essex and Cambs, plus Norfolk and Suffolk.   Cumbria remains in Tier 2, and Lincs remains in Tier 3.

Herefordshire goes back into Tier 2, after a week.  Cornwall also goes into Tier 2.

Swiss ski resorts are hunting down British tourists.  Or are supposed to be.

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, there’s another strain on the loose, and this one’s even worse.  This one comes from South Africa, but two cases have been found in the UK from people who’ve recently returned from South Africa.

France, Belgium and the Netherlands have agreed to let travel to and from the UK resume, but anyone entering those countries from the UK has to provide a negative Covid test first.  There are around 3,800 lorry drivers stuck in Dover, maybe more, – sleeping in their lorries, without adequate food, drink, washing facilities or toilets, and desperate to get home for Christmas.  Local charities and community groups are doing what they can, but the situation’s horrendous.

You know how it was all going to be over by July?  Then by Christmas?  Then by Easter?  Hancock’s just said that we hope to have things back to normal by 2022!  OK, obviously it’s not his fault that the virus has mutated, but …. bleurgh.  Nine months after we went into lockdown, it genuinely looks as if the worst may yet lie ahead.

I just can’t quite process what’s happened in the last few days.

 

Later – hooray, something good!  We beat Everton 2-0 in the Carabao Cup QF.  Unfortunately, we’ve been drawn against City in the semis, but at least we’re in the semis!

 

Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24th

Cold, but bright and sunny.  And, hooray, we have a Brexit deal!   We haven’t got all the details yet.  I don’t suppose it’s perfect, but deals never are, and I don’t suppose that Boris would have agreed to anything too bad.   At last!

Someone’s letting fireworks off.  It’s a bit annoying.  It’s not Bonfire Night!

I have now finished work until the New Year.  I wasn’t exactly expecting work to send me a Fortnum and Mason hamper or a pair of diamond earrings, but a card would have been nice.  Or even an e-mail, thanking everyone for all their efforts during a very difficult year, and for keeping the firm going, using their own phones, broadband and electricity.  Nada.  Absolutely nothing.

But, after work, I went to get a takeaway cardboard cup of mulled wine from Cuckoo, and quite a few people were stood (in small groups, not crowds!) in the street outside Cuckoo and The Grape & Grain, in the freezing cold, drinking mulled wine or hot chocolate out of cardboard cups.  It didn’t make up for the fact that my sister, brother-in-law and nephews are 200 miles away, and that I won’t be seeing my uncle and cousins on Christmas Day ever, but it was rather nice in a weird 2020 Tier 3 kind of way.

Enya:

Nice sunny day today, after heavy rain overnight.  I decided to walk round some different parts of town – first the “Northern Quarter”, then Castlefield/Deansgate Locks.   It was really nice, and blessedly devoid of a) dogs and b) kids on scooters.
There were plenty of places open for takeaway food and drink in the main shopping areas – but, worryingly, a lot of the independents were shut.  There were queues outside some shops, notably Primark and JD Sports, but other places weren’t busy, bearing in mind that the post-Christmas sales are on.  However, it appears to have got a bit chaotic at the Trafford Centre yesterday.  People are accusing both shoppers and the Centre managers of being irresponsible, but I don’t think it was really anyone’s fault: it’s just very difficult to organise things in a “Covid-secure” way when you’ve got a large number of different shops inside a big enclosed shopping centre.  I don’t know what the answer is.
Takeaway places in residential areas and parks are very busy.  I’m spending a stupid amount of money on cups of tea and cakes, when I could have a drink at home and I most certainly don’t need to stuff my already fat face with cakes/scones/mince pies, but it’s just something to do.I don’t know what to think.  I’m hearing worrying reports from people in London about the number of cases in their communities.  Can we act now, to try to reduce the chances of that happening here?  Given that it seems to be spreading quickly amongst kids of all ages, the best bet would be to close schools, but there are so many arguments against doing that.

On a more positive note, I’m also hearing about people I know who’ve had the vaccination.  But it could take a year to vaccinate everyone (and that’s if everyone wants to be vaccinated).  What do we do in the meantime?
Heigh-ho.  I’m usually really OCD-ish in late December, as if a bit of dust on the table or a bit of dirt on a carpet will somehow jinx the new year.  In any other year, the awful mess on the kitchen ceiling from the leak (which will cost even more money to sort, sigh) would be totally stressing me out.  But, this year, we know that it’ll be a rotten start to the new year!  The questions are how bad will it get, and how long will it be before things, hopefully, improve.
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